Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Good is Good Enough

It’s been awhile since I’ve found myself here. In March, we had a quick pivot to online that I found myself using my preps to help teachers with small technology troubleshooting things and every break I had to get outside to decompress from being indoors. Now that we are swinging back into the routine, I thought I’d give a good old crack at this blogging thing again. My fingers may be a little rusty so please go easy on me here!

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Let me just summarize my last 6 months in a couple of bitmojis so we can do this whole “how was your summer” thing much faster:

I may have done a disproportionately large amount of running this summer compared to other activities but hey, we all have our own things, right? Funfact: I learned that my bike is of a quality that my other half calls, “one up from Walmart”, and I am such a slow biker that in 21.1km, I probably save myself about 5-10 minutes compared to me running that at my race pace. This is not a testament to my strong running skills but my absolute garbage biking skills. Don’t worry folks, 2021 is the year of the bike! suave

I just thought I’d use this chance as a nice reminder to bring back the running metaphors because it’s really how I see the world. Summer was great. I was running, biking and hiking a lot. In July, I climbed 3500m in elevation between running and hiking. In August, I hit 4600m in elevation gain. I had a phenomenal routine. I’d wake up and do an easy 20 minute run in the morning just to get my legs warm and flushed. Because I had done that early morning warm-up, my afternoon runs felt GREAT and that caused my overall summer to run pretty smooth and groovy (no pun intended, or pun intended?). Running was going great. Great schedule, great weather and I really had the chance to focus on personal fitness and health with no race goals. Sounds odd, right? It was amazing. Running not for speed, but for me. Spending lots of time to get in a mindful zone and appreciate…me.

And then the blissful happy summer came to an end. It was time to go back to school. Having specialized in mathematical modelling of biological diseases in my undergrad, this whole pandemic added a whole lot of stress that I did not need. My anxious self knows too much about how disease spreads and…I am just going to stop there before I go on a tangent that helps no one in this situation. For once in my teaching life, I was dreading back to school. 

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Don’t get me wrong, teaching is my passion, but so is protecting my loved ones. I am sure many of you reading this now also feel the same. We are all adjusting to new normals and working in environments where normal looks different for every individual you encounter. Not only that, there are different levels of careful and everyone has their own comfort level of what they’re willing to do in their classroom.

Now, let’s throw in the mix of what we have to do this year in our classrooms. New tech, new students, new routine and new teaching? So…the way my school has it, my “in-class” students are divided into Cohort A and Cohort B. That is, one day I will see Cohort A, and the next time the schedule rolls around to that same class, I will see Cohort B instead. Don’t worry, the cohort not in school will be following online at home in a synchronous format. Yup, so you’re running an in-class lesson and a synchronous online? Well, don’t forget about the many students you also have to cater to in an asynchronous model because they live in a different timezone. Okay let’s recap because I always have to work it out in my head…in one lesson, I have to plan an in-class lesson, an online synchronous live lesson and an asynchronous lesson for students to do in a different timezone. A reminder, I teach science. I teach a very activity-based class. I do at least one hands-on activity in-class. I don’t know how to teach without activities…it’s just…my style! Okay, so now I need to pivot how I teach, but have three working models that support the needs of the many different learner profiles I have in my classes? Yup…okay.

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Oh yeah, don’t forget the newer teachers you need to help mentor and guide through these times because clearly, I am an expert at all these things?! It’s a lot, and the numbers also don’t always work out. In one cohort, I could have 2 students actually in-class, 10 students synchronous online at home (5 from Cohort B and the other 3 as local, online synchronous learners) and then another 5 asynchronous, in a different timezone. Then, the other cohort of that same would have 5 in-class, 7 synchronous online and 5 asynchronous, in a different timezone. Does your head hurt yet? Mine does…

deep breathsI found myself feeling guilty last week for not being able to do my double run routines that I developed over the summer. I found myself feeling like I was giving up on my health because I wasn’t running twice a day. I realized when I really sat down to think about it, that I was not running twice a day last year. I was not running twice a day when I qualified for Boston, or when I was training for the Boston Marathon. Heck, when did running twice a day become expectation? I realized I had to check myself. Everyone around me is overworked, tired, stressed, and setting the bar so high. As teachers, we put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all and to do whatever we are asked of at such a high level. When did this become an expectation? We are in a pandemic.

The expectation is to stay healthy, keep our families healthy and to focus on the well-being and mental health of ourselves and our loved ones.

Bitmoji ImageI don’t think I’ve officially heard that said to me, but I really felt the need to get that out there. How many of you are sitting there thinking about all the things you need to do this week? How many of you are thinking about all the lessons or things you want to try to be that awesome teacher (or school leader)? How many of you are really trying to plan three different lessons for every lesson you teach and pretend that you know how to set up all the tech you were given just a week ago? How many of you are trying to support absolutely everyone around you (except yourself)?

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We can’t do it all, but we can be role models to our students about what staying health in a pandemic looks like. We can truly be the star examples of showing limits, vulnerability, and remind students that we are humans too. We can’t be the teachers we were a year ago. We have to show our students what balance and sustainability looks like. We have to be role models to show what prioritizing mental health and well-being looks like. We have to be examples to show how students can be healthy and live a lifestyle where health (physical and mental) is a priority. Academics are important, sure; but academics mean nothing if you’re not well. We’re all just trying here. Honestly, if my students learn how to manage and mitigate their stress and how to pursue a healthy lifestyle that is realistic and sustainable, I would be happy. Who cares if they don’t remember mitosis in 5 or 10 years? If my students can develop the habits of healthy living (eating, sleeping, exercising, time management, etc.), I think that’s the big win we should be fighting for; again, we are in a global pandemic folks! If my mic fails or my internet shuts off…go exercise for the period. Mitosis will still be here when you’re back, but that hour you took to improving your health was a deliberate and intentional time you took to focus and work on you.

When I first started at my current school a coworker said to me, “good is good enough.” That statement has never meant so much to me until this pandemic. I can’t put the expectation on myself to run twice a day again–I’ll run as much as my body needs to stay health at its current fitness, but there’s not pressure to do it all. If the time allows it, then sure, but there’s no pressure if it doesn’t happen. I just have to do what I can!

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I’ll teach what I can this year and if I drop the ball in one of the three models I have to do for every single lesson, so be it. If I drop the ball on a full lesson in all three models, so be it. If I am to be understanding of the dynamic and variable situations my students are in, they can do the same for me. I am sure if I continue to focus and prioritize the students’ wellness and mental health, they too will do the same for me. We are our harshest critics. I can only do so much. I am one person. You can only do so much. You are one person.

Love

Good is good enough.

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7 Comments

  1. Adam Caplan

    Hi May! It sounds like you are doing the best you can in the time available – all anyone could really ask. Spending time committing to exercise, to deeply understanding your school’s approaches, and to recognizing and addressing your feelings about all this (including going the distance to blogging about it) are accomplishments themselves. Way to go!

  2. Garth Nichols

    Love love love this post – not only for the amazing content, but for your use of bitmoji’s to add emotion and to tell a story! Thanks!

    Also, your writing about “Good is good enough” reminded me of this podcast, which I think is super helpful to listen to again: https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/truth-for-teachers-podcast/benefits-teaching-remotely/

    In it, she positions educators as researchers, and encourages us to “notice” things. To me, it reminds me how fluid we have to be in our approaches to the classroom, and even to ourselves.

    Looking forward to reconnecting soon!
    Garth.

  3. Allison Campbell-Rogers

    Hi May, boy do I identify with this post! What comes through for me is your determination to set your own expectations; if ever there was a time to trust our own instincts on what we can handle it would be now 🙂 I am finding the balance shifting daily, but prioritizing your own health and wellbeing means you can be there for your family and your students over the long term. Thank you for sharing this message with us, I am sure others will recognize the same tensions you do and there is comfort in numbers, we are all in this together.

    • maylu

      This is why Cohort is amazing! The support and constant positivity in a high-flex never-ending world is so refreshing, needing and energizing :)! I can’t wait for Saturday!

  4. Justin Medved

    @maylu I think you have tapped into a invisible and not often talked about educator habit of building up and curating long often unattainable to-do lists that end up being massive boat-anchors for our own well being instead of helpful lists. There is a pattern emerging here among all these posts and I think Saturday will be a great group therapy session to help process it all – Thank you for this and also for winning the 2020 “most bitmoji’s in a post award 🙂

    @vfloras @swelbourn @maylu @tjagdeo @adamcaplan

  5. Sam Welbourn

    May, this post is a generous gift to so many who struggle to accept that “good is good enough”. Earlier this year, I tried to remind myself that “done is better than perfect”…. but it’s even hard to be done …ever… am I right?! The way you speak so openly and honestly about the challenges you’re facing and everything that is on your plate is an invitation for all of us to accept that we all need to establish our own priorities and take care of ourselves as part of the overall equation.
    I love your focus on the students in your class. It’s so true that “we can truly be the star examples of showing limits, vulnerability, and remind students that we are humans too.” Why is this so hard? Vulnerability is critical, but also terrifying. Rationally, we know it’s what’s needed most to really show up for others, but it’s hard to say when we’ve reached our limit. Thank you for putting this post into the universe so that we really can feel like we’re in this together!

    • maylu

      You ask a great question! Why is it so hard?!

      I think we all put pressure on ourselves to constantly improve and exactly like you said, when are we ever ever done?! We are never, but I love cohort and how we all aim to do better in a judgement free zone and work together towards bettering ourselves, our teaching and our community. It’s something that really has kept me motivated to teach during this time!

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