Mind, Heart and Classroom Ready

In my day job, I am a public school teacher. I have spent the last four days preparing my heart, mind and classroom to welcome my new students. 

There are 4 options for how to manage your children’s return to formal education in our district. Each option has flaws, limitations and drawbacks, and each option has benefits, unique opportunities and support. No option is perfect, but every family gets to look at their own situation and make a decision about what the best of the options is for their own family. 

At the moment, I am anticipating teaching full time in a regular sized classroom with a full student load, and I need to do my job – which for now looks kind of normal and nothing like normal all at the same time. I have a mask hanging by my desk and another by my classroom door. That is not normal! I have a new schedule that includes trying to teach around 6-8 handwashing times a day for 22ish students. Also, not normal. I am revamping lesson plans to take students outside so much as is possible, while still meeting learning goals. I’m excited about that part, but it’s also not normal. I’m doing my personal, professional best to figure out how to manage my classroom in the safest way possible, leave my students feeling cared for and supported, and still learning a few things too!

Today, I became unpleasant on social media. It was in response to another article quoting an expert in opposition to the current plans. I’ve literally just had more than enough of the conversation. The fear, unhappiness and unrest just continues and is perpetuated with news reports, social media posts and heated continuing discussions and debate around what our province should, would and could be doing differently.

It has officially overwhelmed my brain – the very brain I need to do my job this week… 

I am absolutely convinced that the debate is bad for my mental health – and other teacher’s mental health, parent’s mental health and kid’s mental health too.

I really want my friends, family and neighbours to make the best of the situation and do what they need to do for their individual families. This is not a one size fits all reality! But I can’t imagine that dragging out this conversations is what’s best for anyone.

I think a lot of us may need to shift our focus in the next few days and weeks away from the perpetual noise and intentionally focus on refinding our peace. I know that I do!

So, may I make a suggestion friend. For a moment, let’s all just stop. Let’s stop jumping into conversations that stir up anxiety and stress. Let’s stop fueling the fire on social media. Let’s stop looking for an expert to echo our own opinions and fears. Let’s stop planting seeds in our children’s minds that sitr up their anxiety too!

Instead, let’s start working to figure out what is in our own control and do our very best to manage it well. Let’s work on training our children to wash their hands well and cover sneezes and coughs appropriately (and let’s practice those habits ourselves too!). Let’s try to find a mask that we can tolerate and find comfortable, and then let’s wear it when appropriate (bonus points for wearing it without complaining!). Let’s speak words of encouragement and peace to each other. Let’s look for solutions. And, let’s cheer each other on (without judgement) as we all make the decisions we feel are best for our own families.

Let’s also practice releasing what is not in our control. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to cast our cares on God, because he cares for us. That doesn’t mean that he’ll provide an immunity or keep every germ from our path. But, it does mean that He will care for us – no matter what comes our way. I am going to strive to remember what we are told in Matthew 6:34, and not worry about tomorrow (which has enough worries of its own) and only focus on the moment at hand. Finally, I’m going to write Psalm 46:10 on a sticky note and make sure it stays in my line of view – it reads “Be still and know that I am God.” For me, being still, stopping striving and fussing, and letting God be God doesn’t come easily! I have to be intentional and chose stillness – for my body, my mind and my heart! 

In the coming hours and days, I may need to step out of many conversations and spend many moments in quiet prayer to keep guarding my heart and seeking peace in the midst of the chaos.

I’m going to pray for wisdom for our leaders, protection for our schools and I’ll pray that you find peace along this uncharted journey too! And, while I’m at it… I will also do my best to stay pleasant and composed – and not lose my mind (or my self control) on social media either.

The best news of all is this – At the end of the day, God is still in control. He still loves us. And, He still is good. 

Blessings on you my friends. May you make wise choices. May God direct your path. And, may you find peace.

Could, Would, Should: Navigating Education and Parenting through COVID-19

I am a parent and an educator. Many of my friends are also parents and/or educators. This has not escaped the algorithms of social media – so I get a steady stream of posts, stories, webinar offers, online courses and lengthy commentaries about how we could, would and should be managing our children’s education during this time. 

If those weren’t enough to navigate… then, come the questions, conversations and predictions about when schools will be back in session, and what it could, would and should look like.

It doesn’t take long to find the spectrum of thought running from imposing strict homeschool schedules that keep your child 100% on track academically, to suggesting we release all expectation of academic routine and focus 100% of our attention on our child’s social and emotional wellbeing. 

We can find people who think schools should open today to others who argue that we should stay closed until the fall, or even for 12-18 months to avoid the second wave. 

I can quickly become overwhelmed in these types of conversations. I especially react poorly after subconsciously heaping expectations on myself about all the things that I could, would or should be doing – as a good parent and a good teacher! 

There are many amazing ideas out there that are actually worthy of consideration and pursuit – but, none of us can keep up with all of them! Our families, kids and classes, are all different. The best idea for your family or class, might not be the best idea for mine. But, it can be hard to discern that while still knee deep in the sea of information and conversation!

So, how do we manage it all?

In any other season, I’d likely be limiting my own exposure to social media, just to maintain my sanity. I might even call a full social media fast. But, with the reality of mandatory isolating and distancing, social media is a relational life line. I can’t just turn it off. 

So, here’s the general lens that I’m using to navigate all of this for myself:

First, I choose to remember that my wisdom needs to come from God and not from the opinions of others online. James 1:5 (ESV) says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The very first thing I need to do when faced with all the coulds and woulds and shoulds is to stop and ask God to give me wisdom.

Second, I chose to remember that the very same God who says to train our children well, also says to not exasperate them! (See Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21). So, I need to do my best to parent well and set good standards, but also not push my child to the point of exasperation in this already stressful season. The balance of academic achievement and social/emotional well-being will look different for each child. I need to find the right mix in my own parenting.

Finally, I need to only worry about today! Matthew 6:34 (ESV) says “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I don’t need to engage in a lot of worry or stress about what might come. Truthfully, we don’t know what’s coming next and for me, engaging in a series of “what ifs” isn’t helping me navigate today well. It’s only making me preemptively anxious. In fact, it is distracting me from the issues that I really do need to address today.

So, my friends… the irony is not lost on me that I am adding another voice in the sea of information and communication around parenting and education in this season. SO, I’m going to be very intentional in not suggesting that you could, would or should approach any of this in the same way I do. But, if you find any of this helpful, please feel free to adopt a similar strategy. We are all in this together, but no one journey is going to look exactly the same. My hope is that you find wisdom, grace and peace in this season!

Originally published on the Community of Hope Blog at http://www.gethope.ca/blog/

 

Connection Matters

I teach Grade One and Two and I miss my students. I was already a little sad about just being away from them for a whole two weeks at Spring Break! I was not prepared to walk away from the classroom altogether. As it became obvious that school wasn’t coming back in session, I approached teaching online with as much strategic thought and enthusiasm as I could find.

Knowing that they all had different families with different resources, different schedules and different dynamics, I made the foundation for my class a very flexible daily challenge – a five point checklist that aimed to keep them working on the most important pieces of their education. Every day, my students are challenged to 1) Do some reading, 2) Do some writing, 3) Do something with numbers, 4) Do something creative, and 5) Do something physical.

As I started gathering resources to support them, I was feeling pretty confident that this list hit the most important things for my students!

Then I started making phone calls and was caught off guard by how emotional the calls were. On my third phone call, I told a little boy in my class how much I missed him and he started to cry. After an emotionally draining first day of calling my students, followed by a full week of teaching online, my takeaway is that no checklist of tasks can possibly cover the most important piece of our kids’ education!

It reminds me of a sermon from back when I was a teenager, where the pastor handed everyone a paper with a list of all the times the term “one another” was used in the New Testament – encourage one another, admonish one another, greet one another, speak to one another… It was a very long list – and for good reason. God made us to be in relationship with each other.

While you are socially isolating with your children, could I encourage you to remember that they may be carrying a sense of loss and grief over the closure of their classrooms and the loss (even temporarily) of those relationships. It is really important that they stay connected with other people. While some of that relational need can and will be met within your own home, please remember to look for connecting opportunities for your children and make the most of them! These are unique times and we really do need to lean into one another through them.

 

(originally published on the Community of Hope Church Blog at www.gethope.ca)