Problem, Challenge or Opportunity?
We just enjoyed nine weeks of remote learning. It was exhausting but rewarding. Next week, we will begin a hybrid of in-class instruction for students who choose to return and a continuation of learning at home for others. So many firsts during this pandemic – first time teaching remotely, first time staying at home in isolation, and first time staying away from friends and loved ones to keep us all safe. I recognize there are many more firsts we have experienced. The next first time is teaching seven students in person while also supporting 17 others at home. It’s another change, another new adventure and that’s where mindset matters. How I approach this will affect my thoughts and feelings about it. Is it a problem, challenge or opportunity?
In a very short period of time, everyone around the world has had to adapt to something new, something different. How well we adapt to that change can be determined by our outlook about it. What is it we tell ourselves about this new situation? Is it a problem? Is it a challenge? Or is it an opportunity – a possibility of making the situation the best situation possible?
I have often drawn this out for not only my students for many years but also my own children at home during our discussions or family meetings. I often think about the things I share repeatedly over the years in different circles and this is one of them. Every day, things happen; it’s a situation. When we interpret the situation, we put our own lens on it – either positive or negative. There is no real in between or neutral and I would be open to discussing this aspect further with you should you like to engage. Depending on the outlook we choose (and I truly believe it is a choice we CAN control and a choice we make), it will affect what we think, how we feel, and how we respond to the situation. So, I am always preaching that we can choose the happy route. Why would you decide to choose to be unhappy? I choose happy.
So this brings me back to when we first found out schools will be closed indefinitely after spring break. It was a situation we all interpreted in our own way. My natural instinct was to see things in a positive light. I almost always try to find a piece of gratitude first. What am I thankful for? How can I use this as an opportunity and make the most out of this situation? Staying at home meant everyone we care about would be safe so that’s a definite positive. Having more time at home meant that I was given the gift of time to dive into my passions of people, relationships, teaching, learning, writing, and leading as I mentioned in my About page. During this time, I have:
- connected with many people I didn’t have the same time for before to rekindle and build on relationships. I keep a list of people I would like to connect with and mark the dates we last connected. If it’s been about a month, I check in with them again and update my document. It has been such an incredible pleasure to reconnect with some of the students in my very first teaching assignment 21 years ago when they were in grade 2. They are now 28 years old!
- developed a remote teaching program that I feel proud of and know my students are continuing to grow from the activities and feedback I provide.
- spent many hours each day supporting colleagues with their questions about different digital platforms and provided training. With my previous experience on the Staff Development Team in Learning Technologies, I have expertise I can share. I loved this extra teaching opportunity to support colleagues because I saw it as a gift of connection and a way to lead. Had I not have spent the time supporting them, we probably would not have had the same opportunity to further develop our relationship. I have said this often, “It makes me happy to help!” and it truly does!
- continued my professional learning. It has hit an all-time high with the hours of professional development I enjoy each day! I recently discovered the Teach Better Team (They are amazing people with the same passion about betterment. I am impressed with what they offer – podcasts, blog, video chats, Twitter chat, Facebook group, and the list goes on!). I have participated in their free Better at a Distance 12-part webinar series. I learned about the Grid Method and have been using it for our Multiplication unit and absolutely love it! This will continue to be a life changer especially in our new hybrid of learning at home and school because students are empowered with ownership over their learning. The bigger life changer though is the new community for which I now feel like I belong – literally everyone I have met on the Teach Better Team is so passionate. They help educators TEACH BETTER and I am better because of them. Their passion is truly inspirational and contagious! Also, I have participated in more Educhats on Twitter than ever before and am learning so much from others who push my thinking: #MasteryChat #ATAssessment #EdAdventures #EducationNeverDies and loving it! When I tell others about how I have been spending my time, I share how my brain is on fire and my heart is ablaze from all the Pro-D because learning is one of my passions.
- excitedly purchased my own domain name and started writing here on this blog. I am so thrilled and blessed to have this extra time to dive in to all my passions! Well, all except ringette since rinks are closed and the season is over.
Another thing I always say is, “Don’t focus on the problem. Instead, focus on the solution.” We can expend our energy only ONE way so whether we spend it focussing on the problem or instead, focusing on possible solutions, only one path will bring us closer to a more positive feeling at the end. I also feel the same way about “worrying”. Stop focussing on worry and instead, focus on what you are going to DO about the situation to make it a better one. There is only so much time and energy. I often say, “You can’t change what already happened. What are you going to do about?” Begin taking action.
Does this mean that we should never focus on the problem then? No. Simply put, it is important to dive into the problem to understand it before we can move on to possibilities for solutions. We need to invest time to think about the problem so we can come up with ideas that make sense but while we are in this process, we need to be mindful to live here for the reason of finding possible solutions and not to dwell in the negative too long. I have witnessed people dwell and dwell for a long time and perpetuate feeling miserable. Perhaps this is their process of getting to the solution-making stage so that’s okay but just be cautious and mindful of how long you stay there. Honour the purpose of being there to look for possibilities and to find or make opportunities but then move on.
So what if it’s not in my nature to be positive? How can I become more positive? Is this natural tendency something I can change over time? Yes! Our will and our minds are powerful and plastic; we can change. We have heard many stories where people have faced harsh adversity and have had to relearn how to walk or talk after trauma, for example, but yet they are able to overcome it and rise above it. Why? Is it because they chose to have a positive outlook? Is it because they chose to see the situation not only as a problem but as an opportunity as they adapted to change? Of course it took grit and perseverance too but if they can retrain their brain to accomplish feats once unimaginable, we surely can alter the way we naturally see things in a more positive light. It will take effort. It will take time but you can do it. I believe you can. You just need to believe you can too.
So now that we are reopening schools next week, I choose not to see it as a problem. I have read Facebook threads that go on and on with complaints about reopening and questioning why. I understand some of the reasons why and I don’t need to understand all of them. It is a fact that schools are reopening and no matter how much we talk about why, they are still reopening. I only have so much time in a day. Time keeps ticking every single second. I would rather spend that time focussing on finding a solution (or a plan for the return of students in person) than diving in to more negativity that does not solve any issues. I choose to see it as an opportunity to reconnect with some students in person while also continuing to build relationships with my remote learning students. They are all still learning from home except some are attending school 2/5 days rather than 5/5 days of remote learning. So, I begin by asking the following questions:
- What do my students need from me and each other in order to feel safe and secure?
- What are the most important aspects of their social-emotional learning and mental health now?
- How can I elicit students to be leaders in building up our classroom community further as we are together but apart?
- How can I best honour the learning for both sets of children?
- What can we do to make in-class instruction meaningful and memorable?
At this point, I have more questions than solid answers still but regardless, I have seen the whole education community rise to the challenge to flip our classroom from inside four walls to outside in the virtual world within a week. I have seen a lot of sharing of ideas and the drive for collaboration to support each other. I have seen resilient educators who come up with inspiring ideas. So with the new change of reopening of schools, I know I am not alone. My fabulous colleagues share ideas and support me as I do them. We can do this together as we have proven to the world when we moved to emergency remote learning in such a short period of time. Working together makes us better.
We have been given the gift of in-person teaching time in June as schools reopen. I have taken for granted the time we had with our students before spring break. I have learned from it so I will not take June for granted. My time with them is limited also because I will be leaving the school this year only after being there one year. I only have one month left to teach them, reach them, spend time with them, laugh with them, enjoy them, and love them. So unfortunate that I cannot hug them. I will make the most of this opportunity so I challenge you to do the same and not just fill the time – make it fun, meaningful and memorable. Kids deserve it and I bet you’ll get something out of it too! Your mindset matters. It was always my personal commitment every day to do something fun or to teach something new. I made this pledge to them at the beginning of the year. They counted on it. Every day, they knew we would be doing or learning something new and some expressed this was one of the reasons why they loved school; they looked forward to seeing what the “new thing” was each day. June should not be different. I will choose to see this situation as a new opportunity with many possibilities to not only fill time but to do something memorable with the special time we have left.
Embrace the change. Rise to the occasion. We need to be better and do better for our students. It’s our NEW September together. Choose to do the little things you would do in September – read my tweet about distancing signs. Let’s make the most of this change and new adventure by choosing our positive set of lenses. You can control the outcome of this – choose happiness.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share by commenting on this post or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate you for reading my thoughts today! So grateful!
“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.” – Joyce Meyer