My mom is a textbook definition of the eternal optimist. She sees the bright side of every situation through her rose-colored glasses. Her self proclaimed nickname is Pollyanna. I did not inherit this trait from her. I, on the other hand, am more pragmatic. I try to look at a situation realistically without the glass being half full or half empty. To me, it’s simply a half a glass of water.
So when we found out we would not return to our physical schools earlier this week, I didn’t get super emotional. I looked at this as another challenge our profession, students, and parents would experience with some ups and downs.
The first four days of the week were filled with video meetings with staff and students. Each time I met with my kids, I was reminded of their silly, funny, inquisitive, and sweet personalities. They asked me about my son and I asked them about their break and transition to online learning. They wanted to know about projects, assignments, and upcoming tests. They reminded me that they are still kids who want to learn. I felt optimistic about the future.
However, this morning I woke up in a funk. I so desperately wanted to get in my car and drive to school. I wanted to talk with my students and interact with my colleagues face to face. Nevertheless, I sat down sadly in front of my computer like thousands of Arizona students and teachers.
I plodded through a few emails and tried to entertain my kid at the same time. I scrolled through Instagram for a few minutes hoping this would cheer me up, but it didn’t of course. Next, I turned on the Today Show. This was a really bad idea. The news was not uplifting and did not inspire me in the least. I needed Pollyanna to pull me out of this dark hole. I needed to figure out a way to see the glass half full because I was definitely at half empty.
So what did I do? I put on my metaphorical rose-colored glasses and channeled my mother. (I hope she laughs when she reads this.) I thought about how I could turn my frown upside down.
1. Misery Loves Company
I texted a friend from school lamenting my feelings. She mentioned that she sent her students and parents an email sharing her feelings about the current learning environment. I decided to do the same. I reminded them that I was disappointed we weren’t going to be together in the same classroom but this doesn’t change my commitment to my students and their learning. The replies I received instantly cheered me up. Parents appreciated the honesty I provided as I explained staying home with a 15 month-old and teaching remotely isn’t easy and I understand this isn’t easy for kids or parents either. But remember, it’s going to be okay. We will get through this.
2. Feel Some Feels
Next, I posted a message of appreciation to my students. I thanked them for their participation and willingness to try something new this week.
Then I posted two memes. I use memes in my classroom regularly. They engage students and often start conversations. The first was a lovey-dovey play on a Dr. Seuss classic quote reminding them I will do whatever it takes to help them. The other mocked my inability to ask them to put their phones away. I hope they giggle when they read it and think, “Oh, Clark.” One student quickly replied, “Good morning, Mrs. Clark.” That cheered me up for sure!
3. Student Work
Then I remembered I posted an article entitled, “The Top 10 Tips for Succeeding in Online School” with some reflection questions on Monday. This is the first time most of my kids are taking one online class, let alone six. I asked the following questions:
1. How do you feel about transitioning to online learning?
2. What do you think is going to be easy about online learning for you?
3. What do you think is going to be difficult about online learning for you?
4. The article provides 10 tips. Select three that you believe will be most beneficial to you as an online learner.
5. How do you think this experience will positively benefit you in the future?
Their responses to the last question were incredible. Most of the kids said this experience will help them get better at time management and focus on their work. They also said this will help them when they enter the workforce and/or go to college. Students commented that most jobs require employees to use technology to complete work and most colleges have students submit assignments electronically. They see this as an opportunity to learn and grow.
This helped me change my attitude. This is not only an opportunity for our students to develop, but we can also develop our practice. This will help me move toward a more flipped classroom next year as I learn how to create engaging lessons students can preview before our face-to-face meetings.
At one point, I looked down at my son as he pulled my leg with Brown Bear Brown, Bear in his little hands. He needed his momma’s full attention. I instantly closed my laptop and read the story to him with my undivided attention. Next, I popped him in the stroller and took a half an hour walk. We needed a break from the living room moonlighting as an office. This dose of vitamin D and some uninterrupted time with my kid helped put this situation into perspective. We must take care of ourselves and each other before we can take care of our students.
The next few months will require a healthy daily dose of Pollyanna for many of us. But that’s okay. We are ALL learning a new normal where it’s okay to need a little boost to keep our spirits up. How are you seeing the bright side? Leave a comment below.