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 :
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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'.