# Professional Development, Distance Learning, Education, Self Care, Uncategorized, Wellness

Our Greatest Fear

Fear…the silent force lurking underneath so many of our choices, actions, and reactions. Right now, is a time of tremendous fear as we watch our nation grapple with so many issues. As we begin the 2020/2021 school year, I don’t think I have EVER seen a time of such tremendous fear regarding the return to school. Fear that we will go back, won’t go back, will go back part time, will make educators return, on and on and on….

Personally, it is so easy to be demoralized as an educator. In the Spring, educators were hailed as heroes worth million of dollars for educating kids. Now, they are perceived as whiners unwilling to return to work. The message has been sent at every level that educators are expendable. Schools place the blame squarely on the shoulders of educators for why they are moving to remote learning.

Some educators feel total frustration with trying to educate in a distance learning model. Some educators are terrified to be in person instruction. Some know that they will not be able to maintain the safety environment expected and that they will be held accountable for a system that is impossible to maintain without resources, support, and frankly, perfect children (which don’t exist).

We educators begin to wonder why I am doing this? Am I making any difference? Why do people refuse to treat me as a skilled professional deserving of respect for my expertise? Why are we expendable? What about my own family?

I was listening to the Michelle Obama podcast on Spotify (highly recommended) and I had an epiphany to my own fears that made me reframe my thinking and get ready to wade back into battle for myself, my family, my students, and the educational process as a whole. Here are the truths I discovered:

(1) YOU – educator, bus driver, assistant, cafeteria – you probably have been directly responsible for changing and possibly saving the life of a child. I often discount the impact I have made on the lives of my students. I brush off the compliments out of habit of downplaying myself. But, this impact is a gift! A gift that I need to marvel at for its wonder. Me…in all my messiness…has made a difference. You have made a difference and that matters.

(2) We not only have the right to speak up…we have the obligation to speak up for what is right. As a group, educators are capable of changing the conversation of return to school, safety measures, funding for schools, lessons we can learn from distance learning about what is broken in schools and what we want to see happen.

(3) Each of us has the power to decide what is true, what is right for ourselves. Being a teacher can often feel like we are on a hamster wheel running in circles with no change. We have choices…even when we don’t see them. Many teachers have left the profession rather than put their families at risk and are tutoring, moving into other fields, or allow themselves to put their focus back on their family. Whatever we choose, we have the RIGHT to choose it. Fears…financial, emotional, or peer pressure can make us feel like there is not a choice. But there is ALWAYS a choice we can make to be authentically true to ourselves if we just take a step forward out of fear.

As we enter this time in education that is wrought with fear…take a breath and remind yourself that YOU are powerful beyond measure. YOU are capable of anything you set your mind to. After all, you wrangle a group of 20, 30 kids into sitting still and learning on a regular basis. You’ve GOT this!

So – if you are not sure you have the courage to face your fear…here are some pretty inspirational stories of facing fear to get you motivated.

An educator advocates for a district to move to remote learning with a board unwilling to even listen to concerns. Her emotional response lights a fire for others – video at the bottom of notes from the chalkboard blog post. http://notesfromthechalkboard.com/2020/08/05/covid-fears-of-union-county-educators-fall-on-deaf-ears-at-board-meeting/

Inspirational Nike commercial – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4dDs0T7sM

Facing Fear video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnrogLw6SOQ

Distance Learning, Education, Leadership, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

The Worth of a Teacher

In these unprecedented times, there are moments over and over that make me unbelievably proud to be part of the tribe of teachers. I have watched my friends and colleagues wholeheartedly finding ways to reach our students, comfort them, encourage them, and yes, still continue to educate them. I have seen my daughter’s face as her teacher drove through on a “We miss you car parade” and when she dropped off a goodie bag in our mailbox of activities for the week. (fully sanitized). I have seen my teenage sons leave a zoom conference with their teachers with a big smile on their face. Teachers are part of this ESSENTIAL group of caregivers that while the world shuts down continue to do their job against all odds.

I have also watched as educators around my state and the country suffer under the unreasonable, confusing, and often out of touch demands from administrators, districts, and state level school boards and education officials. I have listened while friends cry trying to manage a whole new world of teaching, while helping their own families and children. I have seen where debates from parents on social media erupt into a “the way this teacher is doing this is so wrong…” type of conversation. I have watched as politicians decide how I will teach, when I will teach, and when I will have to “make up” the time lost. I am sharing some sage advice from Brad Johnson, author of Putting Teachers First.

Ask any educator that you know personally and he/she will tell you that the workload right now is much higher. Teachers are used to the routine of being in the building and are able to pull out their “tried and true” lesson plans crafted previously.  There are no “tried and true” lessons already created in case school is out for over a month. So teachers are creating all of their lessons from scratch and handing them over to a “substitute teacher.” Administrators are requiring online PD, frequent online staff/grade level meetings, some are requiring online tools that the teachers have never used before and must teach themselves. During all this, teachers are being asked questions by their students and parents. Within a classroom, these quick exchanges are effortless to clarify an assignment. By being virtual questions via email, it becomes more complicated and time-consuming to respond. Don’t get me wrong, we want to stay in touch, clarify our instructions, and create the best lessons possible. Giving our best to everything is part of most teachers, so we are not on an early summer break. We are truly working harder than we ever have. 

It all leads me to ask the question “What is the worth of teachers?”. What value do we have, bring, and offer to our administrators, schools, districts, communities and states? What are our administrators, schools, districts, communities and states willing to do to support OUR needs? So here are some questions we need to consider when we look at the worth of our educators.

  1. What should we expect of our teachers while they serve their own families and children during this time?
  2. How can we ask our educators what they need to be successful in this difficult time and then provide it to them remotely?
  3. What can a parent do to support what their child’s teacher needs to continue educating their children?
  4. What demands should be made of teachers to “make up” lost instructional time? Our state is considering extending the school year in the summer or returning early. Most teachers will tell you they are working harder in distance learning than they ever have. Educators should have this worked counted and valued – not be expected to “make it up”.
  5. What can administrators and school districts do to say to teachers what do you need to be successful right now? What can I take off your plate? What boundaries or expectations can I help you put into place to make this work?

I think about the post I wrote about the promises I made to parents. https://authenticteaching.blog/2020/01/27/i-promise/ I want you to know those promises are all still true and even more so. I wake up worrying about my “kids”, spend all day trying to support them, and go to bed worrying about them. I am spending more time supporting, encouraging, and helping my co-workers and friends than ever before and they are doing the same for me. As there is a lot of noise from lots of people outside the teacher tribe discussing my worth, I want to stand up and loudly proclaim

“TEACHERS ARE WORTH AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER ESSENTIAL WORKER”. We do not want more, but we are tired of accepting less. Value us as the loving, dedicated, and committed professionals we are. We want you – administrators, schools, districts, communities, and state officials – to wake up worrying a little about us, spend the day trying to support us, and go to bed worrying about us and all of the other essential workers keeping America going through this crisis. We value you….please value us. co-written by Alexandra Keilen @aktechteacher

# Professional Development, #Classroom Community, Creating a Community, Distance Learning, Education, Self Care, Teamwork

Circle of Control

WOW! These are historic and unprecedented times. My friends and I joked we felt like we were in the beginning scenes of a major Hollywood pandemic blockbuster. Sadly, we are not in a movie. This can bring feelings of stress, worry, anxiety, and fear. As educators, we worry about our own families AND our kids that we have just sent home for an undisclosed amount of time if your school has closed. So – I go back to a lesson learned from the Leader in Me, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Franklin Covey. This concept is the idea that some things are in our control and that is where our power is. Our energy spent worrying about the things outside of our control ultimately harm us rather than help us. So – here are some tips to helping you take control for yourself, your family, and your students in distance learning as we go through these uncharted waters together.

  • Alexandra Keilen, Technology Facilitator and Super Friend, helped me create this one stop shopping resource for all of the supports in place for educators, families, and students during this time. Click here to get information which we will continue to update as we find information. bit.ly/remotelearn
  • Make a schedule – Endless days of rest, relaxation, and hanging out sound great in theory…but after a short patch these become tedious and boring. Set some work hours, play hours, rest hours, etc. Here is a great sample schedule: undefined
  • Zoom to keep in contact – My daughter had an amazing playdate yesterday with a friend and they were in TWO DIFFERENT HOUSES! Zoom is a free video conferencing app that you can download from the play store or the apple store.  To create an account, all you need is a working email. You can set up a sign up genius and do individual zoom teaching or conferences with students or parents. (This would be great for students with IEP, 504 Plans, or LEP Plans) You can do whole class daily live lessons at a scheduled time. You can meet remotely with your PLC or team of educators to figure out next ideas or steps. You can use it to set up times with your family and friends to “hang out”. Here is a great starter video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ik5o6WptX0 
  • Use tools like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to provide students with assignments, materials, or resources – We are so fortunate to live in a world with these technology resources. For our students without internet access or appropriate devices – Spectrum and Comcast are both providing free internet service for families simply by calling their number. Encourage families to consider using an old cell phone that can attach to the wi-fi, tablets, etc. to have students work. For our most at-risk/needy students, look for ways to mail information or drop it off if there is little chance they will get any kind of internet support.
  • Finally, take care of yourself, your family, and your community. We have all heard and seen the stories of people ripping toilet paper out of each other’s hands or mistreating each other as fear sets in. What has NOT been as widely shared is the community of people everywhere that are reaching out to each other, providing services for the community, helping a neighbor, and so much more. If we lead as educators in modeling kindness, respect, and treating our fellow humans with love…we will all come out of this time with a renewed sense of who we are as part of the human family!