Reflections of a Teacher-Mom on my new Hyflex Life

This blog has always been a professional reflection space for me, but as I look back on the last seven months one of the biggest changes I have had to adapt to is the closer integration of work and home life.  I know many of us are in this boat, or other similar boats … teaching with many other large life responsibilities on board.  I’d like to open up my blog a little to that dialogue.  I think the pandemic is shining a light on the costs of  our culture of productivity, and it’s asking some hard questions.  One of the things I have thought a lot about is that maybe a less siloed approach to life is exactly what I need, maybe I need a little HYFLEX! Early on in this pandemic, I read this somewhere:

“What are you learning from what you are going through?”

When things have felt challenging in these months, I have tried to focus on this question, here’s what I’ve noticed so far : 

  1.  There’s a lot of ‘noise’ in our lives … when the pandemic shut down our schools, our social lives, our consumer lives and even to an extent our extended family lives we were forced to focus only on what was essential.  We had to ask ourselves daily: ‘must have?’ or ‘nice to have?’ and we had to make decisions.  For me, the answer to ‘must have’ on the daily whether at home or at school was ‘Connection’.  We must have connection.  We must use our time to take care of and maintain, even amplify our connection to ourselves, our families and our students.  I have tried to make every decision with this in sharp focus. It is amazing to me how much noise has crept into our daily lives, so much of it is unnecessary and it distract us from connecting with ourselves and with one another.
  2. Despite the challenging juggling act of closer integration of work and home life, I have been able to be there for my kids in ways that I don’t think would have been possible were it not for this new reality we are living in.  My sons are 7 and 9.  Their teachers worked hard to build a bridge to online learning for them last spring, but at 7 and 9 it felt like they were being catapulted into a digital world that we had not anticipated them joining quite so soon.  Being available to my kids as this was happening in real time allowed for the necessary conversations of digital citizenship, online safety and parental oversight of their emerging digital footprint in a very thorough way, and I am grateful to be there for that in a way that I don’t think I could have been during ‘normal times’. 
  3. There have been some ‘happy accidents’ along the way too … one aspect of my practice that I have been working on is how to draw the outside world into my classroom, magnify the learning opportunities for my students so that they can embrace more perspectives on the issues and content we are working with. Last spring I found it was so much easier to get experts into the classroom over Zoom for a 30 minute talk than it ever was to coordinate an in-person visit! Moreover, I found their generosity was amplified; many providing their personal emails to students to follow up with them at a later date with any questions they might have. One of my favourite happy accidents was found in a Grade 8 Design students final reflection on her product design unit - sewing fabric masks … she mentioned that the best part of the process for her was getting to spend more time with her Grandmother who supported her in learning how to use her machine and of course, provided that very special comfort that only a Grandmother can bestow. Connection.  There it was again.

It seems to me that prioritizing connection during these times will sacrifice some level productivity, and it has proven again and again to bring me to a place I hadn’t necessarily intended to end up, but also that the dividends of the investment are worth it and not just for the short term.

I have so many more  questions for you, my education colleagues about the logistics of teaching during these times, but I will leave those for another post.  

I hope you are finding a connective thread in your professional / personal lives that is encouraging you along the path.  Please leave me a comment - I'd love to hear 'what you are learning from what you are going through'. 

7 thoughts on “Reflections of a Teacher-Mom on my new Hyflex Life

  1. Hi Allison, thanks for using this space to be honest and vulnerable! You're so right--"We must have connection." More than ever. And during this pandemic, when I've been less distracted by the noise in my life, I've taken time not just to amplify relationships but reconnect. Great read, thank you 🙂

    Reply
  2. Thank you for sharing this, Allison! You're right that we often keep our personal lives away from this blogging space but you so beautifully reflected on the connection between the two. Thank you, as well, for the focus on connection. One of the most memorable novels I read as part of my English degree was A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, and it all comes back to that oh-so-important line: "Only connect."
    - Jen

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  3. Allison macrae

    Alison - this is great insight. I think this pandemic has shifted our world in ways that seemed impossible. I am hopeful that we all look at our lives as one instead of work vs home - because work is such a major part of our day - it needs to be viewed as a part of “life”. How do we build wellness and connection into our daily formula? How do we ensure that our time spent at work is healthy and fulfilling ? It has been a remarkable time for our family. My husband and I took our dog on an hour walk over lunch yesterday - something that was not possible “before” and I was amazed at how many other people were out walking. It was such a good example of balance and connection.

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    1. Post author

      Isn't in great the way there is opportunity for a tighter weave of home & work? Love those moments for a little mid-day walk ... my husband and I have done something similar ... to the local coffee shop 🙂 Hope you are well!

      Reply
  4. The connection peice is equally challenging as it is important. I have had so many conversations with teachers these last few weeks who are feeling defeated because they feel their classroom is not their classroom and their favourite aspects of relationship building are gone. Very gently, I try to remind them of the sage advice- We give time to the things that are important. And those around us notice what we give time too, and that tells them what we think is important. The conversations shifts to if connection and relationships are the most important thing, and "fixing" that would make them happier then lets put some time into figuring it out!

    I am learning that as someone in admin, I can say 1,000+ times that less is more, it is okay to let go of some of the curriculum, relationships matter .... but often these are words that are being heard but not fully taken in. I am learning that taking time to sit alongside my teachers to work with them on building connections for their unique classes is what helps them take words and turn them into actions. I am learning a lot about what it means to be an admin who tries to lead with the same expectations I have for teachers and how they support their students.

    There has been a lot of tough days, many things that have been harder than I could have imagined..... but I am grateful for the learnings that are coming out of all this. Like your student who had a chance to work with her grandmother that she might not have had otherwise.... their can be beautiful stories that remain long after the protocols and hand sanitizer.

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    1. Post author

      Thank you for this thoughtful response @tfaucher. I especially admire: " I sit alongside my teachers to work with them on building connections for their unique classes is what helps them take words and turn them into actions." You can never underestimate the power of an administrator taking the time to do this ... it gives the teacher that important feeling of support and permission to slow down and take the time to find connection. It's a 'professional exhale'. Thank you for being so good at what you do 🙂

      Reply

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