While we were away for Spring Break last week, Governor Evers announced the extension of our Safer at Home Order through May 26 which included the closure of school buildings for the remainder of the school year. It was a sad moment for those of us who were holding out even the smallest bits of hope for a return to face-to-face instruction. This announcement, however, provides us with confirmation of what many suspected would eventually happen. As hard as it might be to accept this new reality, I have found solace in the fact that we no longer have to speculate about different options for the remainder of the year. It’s time for us to look at the next eight weeks and make solid plans for how we’re going to approach teaching, learning, and the process of moving forward as a community.
All of this has made me think about the movie Groundhog’s Day. Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, gets stuck in a time-loop that forces him to repeat the same day, over and over again. For a lot of us, I imagine we’re feeling a very similar feeling. I went back and watched that movie over Spring Break, had a lot of good laughs, and connected with the stages of emotion that Bill Murray’s character went through.. As Phil goes through the realization process, he is at first confused by what was happening, I imagine many of us were feeling the same way back on March 13. Next, he gets into a bit of a routine of indulgence and taking advantage of his situation (Tiger King binge anyone?) which is then followed by a period of anger and fear. Finally, Phil accepts the reality of his situation and begins to learn to enjoy it and make himself a better person. He learns to play piano, speak foreign languages, and even carve ice sculptures. We’ve all gone through, or are currently going through, some of these very same stages that Phil Connors went through in the movie: denial, confusion, anger, fear, and hopefully acceptance. So what do we do once we’ve reached that acceptance stage?
I realize that as we’ve all gone through these stages we’ve processed things differently. I want to go back and reiterate a few great recommendations I’ve seen/heard along the way. I’d love to hear back from you, sharing your different ideas, thoughts, or examples of how you’ve done some of these (or other) things already…please share!!
- Create Routine: This was advice from the very beginning. However, if you’re anything like me, this was ridiculously hard in the beginning (even five weeks in I’m struggling with it!) The uncertainty of our situation made this tough. Hopefully, now that we have a better idea of what the next eight weeks will look like we can create better routines.
- Focus on what you can control: Phil Connors had to learn this the hard way but eventually got there. We are only in control of so much in our lives, that’s where we should focus. Take precautions to stay healthy, find time to exercise, do what you need to ensure mental health, and help those you love. It’s very easy to get stressed about outside factors, but by focusing on those things that we can change we are able to gain a sense of having things under control.
- Be patient, be flexible: As we return to our online learning experiment, be ready for things to be challenging. Remember that all home situations are not created equal. People all around the world are learning to handle online learning at the same time, some more successfully than others. Be prepared to answer the same question multiple times, have technical difficulties, and feel resistance. Everyone is handling this challenge in different ways, no one has THE answers, it’s okay to give an answer and then later say, “whoops, that wasn’t the best answer…here’s a better option.”
- Offer and ask for support: There are going to be times when you are the one offering and providing support to those around you, whether to students, family, or community members. Then there are going to be times when you need the support…that is okay!!! No one, I repeat, no one, is finding this easy or enjoyable. No one should have to handle this alone either! We’re all going to need support from someone, or many someones, to get through this! #WeGotThis #WereInThisTogether
We’re five weeks into this Safer at Home Order already but, weirdly, in a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like it’s been five weeks. When I think about the progression for us as a district from the last time we saw our students in person until today, we’re only just now in a place to really hit the ground running. Prior to Spring Break there were only a couple days where we could be confident that all/most of our students had devices and access to our online learning opportunities. As we return from this week off, it will be important to re-engage our students and their families, welcoming them back to the fold and building some routines for regular contact and learning opportunities. Enjoy the re-entry this week and tell your students I say “hi” when you talk to them, I’m thinking about all of you every day and miss our interactions!! Hang in there!