“At some point you have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening,” wrote Heather Hepler, author. This quote was spoken by a principal in our district to the Class of 2020. With all spring activities either cancelled or postponed, this quote couldn’t be more applicable.
No student approaching a milestone – college graduation, high school graduation, 5th or 8th grade graduations, could have possibly anticipated this dilemma. No matter what walk of life – what continent, culture, profession, role, location or nationality – none of us could have prepared for or prevented our current unified struggle.
Humanity is facing this storm together. Yet all of us are in different “boats”. What a connection we have found with one another through this new reality! As we struggle forward together, we are adapting to a virtual experience with both our students, our colleagues and our friends and families. Our priorities have shifted; our perspectives have changed. What was once an exhausting week is now slower, calmer, and different.
Yet, life continues. In spite of the fear, the sadness, the uncertainty, what is important remains: family, friendships, learning, playing, praying.
Regardless of where you fall in this new time, morning comes with either the sun or the rain, and the evenings consist of sunset with dusk followed by darkness. These constants remain unaltered.
As teaching shifts from a focus on accountability to a focus on authentic learning, how do we continue supporting all students and teachers, including those whose home lives are full of stress and uncertainty?
In my life as a student and an educator, I can never recall not finishing a school year. I can never recall a time when grades didn’t matter. I can never recall a time when I had the gift of time and the urgency of life all compressed into a single day, a single hour, a single minute.
And yet, here we are.
Not only are we lacking a roadmap, but we are moving forward. No matter what boat we find ourselves paddling – we are embracing this storm. And at the heart of it all are our teachers.
This time truly demonstrates how students need different things based on their realities, based on their circumstances. Our teachers are the ones who will support students with equitable learning in mind. They remain the lighthouses, providing guidance to both students and families. Some of our students are in homes whose parents work in hospitals and emergency rooms. These students may not see mom and/or dad without a mask. Some of our students and teachers have loved ones struggling through this virus. Some of our students have parents who have lost their jobs, and the stress in their homes is palpable. Our lives are all different; yet, our storm unifies us.
All of us share the fear of the unknown and are relying on our faith in humanity. Our teachers are the ones who will lead students. Our teachers provide the guidance so many need right now. “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must also be present,” said Francis Bacon, an English philosopher born in 1561.
Everyday, teachers work to create lessons to ease the focus from fear and uncertainty to learning about science, history, literature, and problem solving. For many years educators have discussed ways to make grading more connected to authentic learning and not just about rote learning. Our teachers finally have this beautiful space to make the focus about learning and not about the grade. We have begged for this; we have fought for this; we leave the profession because this is lacking; and we return because we hope to find it again.
Let’s not miss the valuable lesson in these trying moments. Mixed in the news stories and the sadness that we hear daily, is a silver lining. Let’s focus and learn from our greatest leaders- our teachers.
The best way we can support our students is by supporting, believing in, and allowing our teachers to truly do what we hired them to do – teach with the passion that comes from their love of learning. “How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be,” said Elizabeth Lesser, author.
Although Spring 2020 looks different for all students and teachers, it will not diminish their journey. They will embrace flexibility and decide which elements are most important in their lives. Their current uncertainty could pave the way for greater clarity and conviction. Our teachers are the ones leading them through this new time.