By Melissa Buteyn
Grace. Patience. Maslow. Pivot. These words were on repeat in my head as I stared at my principal’s presentation explaining changes that will take place at school this year due to COVID-19. The only thing anyone seems to know for sure is this year is shaping up to be a lot of stress for everyone.
No one has answers that will quell my anxiety about facing 100 kids per day. No one has answers that will allow my students to learn in an equitable way. No one has answers about how parents can work and deal with the changing needs of the school situation. No one has answers that will ensure I’ll be able to do simple things like take a restroom break between classes, either. The potential solutions and potential scenarios seem to bring up more questions. I just want to scream into the universe, “It’s just so complicated and my brain is so tired!” I keep scheduling therapy appointments with Dr. Pasta and Dr. Cookies, and sometimes Dr. Chardonnay if I watch the news, but much to my chagrin, they do not seem to be helping. Now, I need new pants. (Thanks, @erinhmoon for the therapist recs!)
USD 259’s superintendent, Dr. Alicia Thompson, made a comment that really resonates with me. She said, “This is a time to be agile, flexible, practice patience, and have grace.” Despite my internal turmoil, after the virtual conversations today with my colleagues, I’ve started to see a way forward by keeping Dr. Thompson’s words in mind.
I can offer grace to all of the people who are making difficult decisions about school, but especially those who are using medical science to guide them. I can be patient as I wait for the district to struggle through all of the aspects of addressing the complex needs of our educational community. I can remember that Maslow has much to say about how we behave and respond during times of crisis. And Maslow’s ideas apply to far more than just my students. They apply to my bosses, my coworkers, the cafeteria workers, the bus drivers, and my students’ parents.
Dr. Thompson’s words remind me that while I am afraid of horrible consequences from in-person school, I am allowed to find a way forward while facing that fear. I can be brave. I can be creative. I can be patient. I can be kind. I can be strong.
Truthfully, though, I’m really tired of being strong. Actually, it’s not just me. Teachers are tired of being strong. We already carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. How can we possibly do this, too?
I am exhausted from living in the tension of unanswered, complex questions. But I can keep going. I don’t have to like it, but I can do it.
Here’s where pivoting comes in. Honestly, I’m not great at pivoting. I love the routine of school. It’s so comforting to know that the bell will ring and then I start over. Repeat for 180 days. So to hear that I need to be ready to pivot to online or remote teaching at a moment’s notice is unnerving, yet it’s possible. After all, during the KATE summer book club for Untamed Glennon Doyle taught me that I can do hard things.
Here at the KATE Blog, we’ve realized we need to pivot, too. Best laid plans for 2020 are pretty much out the window. And that’s ok. Because we can do hard things. So, we want to hear from YOU! What can we do to support you through this year?
The purpose of the KATE blog is to provide a forum for dialogue and collegiality among Kansas teachers of English Language Arts, pre-kindergarten through post-secondary. Help us make sure we are effectively fulfilling our promise to you.
What do you want or need? Resource lists? Lesson plan ideas? Celebrations of good things happening in Kansas education? More narratives that help us cope with the tension of being a teacher in this crazy world? Let us know.
You can give us feedback in the comments below, on the Kansas Association of Teachers of English Facebook Group, the Kansas English Blog Instagram, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Melissa Buteyn teaches English 1, AP Literature, and Early College Academy English at Wichita Northwest High School. This will be her 21st year teaching in USD 259. She uses the KATE blog committee to justify her addiction to Instagram. Melissa has been on the KATE Executive board for four years and she loves, loves, loves KATE because of the amazing teachers she’s met. She is the 2019-20 KATE Outstanding High School English Educator. You can find her on Twitter @MelB_reads.
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