challenges

Pretend It’s Normal

It’s not quite the end of 2020 and there are about ten thousand phrases I’d like to forget with the new year.

Here are just a few, besides the obvious social distancing:

Abundance of caution – “Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve postponed another event you’ve already planned for / paid for / trained for / committed to indefinitely.”

A little different – “Thanksgiving / the holidays / Disney World / The Peachtree Road Race will look a little different this year, but…”

A year like no other…the list goes on. I want it to stop.

But the one that is like a dagger to my lungs is just the word “normal” in almost any context. Yes, “new normal” is annoying because it implies that this is going to drag on and on forever. But just the word normal is even worse. Especially in my work environment.

“We want it to be like a normal school experience.”

Say what you will about science and politics. What we are going through is not normal. I’m hopeful it’s a once-in-my-lifetime occurrence. Walking around in masks, keeping 6 feet apart, sanitizing a million times a day, kids unable to move as they please or need to, feeling suspicious every time someone sneezes…none of this is normal. Dear bosses…Evaluating how or what I am doing based on “normal” standards is also silly. Thankfully, our state lawmakers came to their senses and made the high-stakes tests high school students take at year end irrelevant to their grades. Take it all as just data, not as a way to penalize kids for situations they didn’t create or choose.

People are doing the best they can. And now more than ever that can be a messy, unpredictable, incomprehensible jumble. Forgive it all. Accept it. This goes for my attitude toward myself, too. Keep going. Lift others up when you can. That’s all I can do.

So when you say you want it to be more normal…I want work (and grocery shopping and traveling and everything else for that matter) to be more like a “normal” experience, too. I wish none of this were happening or that I could wave my magic wand and have it be over. Voila! Normal!

Not that easy. Hopefully we are on the way to a better normal in the near future. But for now, can we please just treat this like the anything-but-normal experience it is?

What pandemic words and phrases make you ragey these days?

challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.