silver linings

…directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Meryl Streep, and Sean Penn… Seems like the greatest tagline for what has occured over the last few months. Never did we expect our lives to change in a way that could have been ripped right from an A-list movie. But here we are. Covid-19 has been the hot topic for weeks, and months. Putting our lives (or what we knew of them) on hold. Daily news updates and #flattenthecurve graphs have taken over our daily thoughts. With this: disruption. Disruption to our normal routines, our normal interactions with ourselves, our families, our friends, and our world. Our world. Scary it sounds, it was, and can still be.

I wanted to document this historic event, as we all do, did, and want to; however, I struggled for weeks, with drafts in my blogosphere “quarantine,” waiting for that one thing I wanted to narrow in on.

To go back, before I go forward, I could have wrote this post on how, I as a teacher and math coach have been changing my lessons, my interactions with students and our math teachers, and our school’s amazing journey through this. This has been documented by so many of my amazing and supportive colleagues of their journey and growth and ongoing efforts. What we all are doing is truly amazing, and each day I am in awe with pride of how much: 1. we were ready and prepared for this, (thank you to all of our hard work with Gerry DeFazio from NoTosh and Silvia Tolisano from #documenting4learning, over the past 3 years) 2. the direction and support from our school, administration, teachers, families, and community and how we all have embraced and supported this new way of learning and education, and finally… 3. how much of a family my school really is. We Shine. As I finish up our schools’ yearbook for this year, getting it ready to submit for publication, we have rewrote our theme to be; Together we Shine. From Classroom Learning to #ojcsonline. We were one, if not the first school in the Ottawa area to go 100% online in learning, and if I’m not mistaken, we are the only school to do so, even now, in a full capacity where students are continuing to learn throughout the entire “school day” with live experiences, at-home activities, and accountability for their growth. Some amazing, (and I say some, there are too many to compile here,) posts, blogs, tweets, and more artifacts of how we as a school and community have overcome this challenge. If you are not part of our community, I strongly urge you to check out some of the following teachers and faculty to see how we, as a school, a community, a family, have continued a new sense of “normalcy” for our students. Also, a great start to build your PLN (Professional Learning Network,) if you’re not following them already.

So why didn’t I choose to do this myself and highlight my teaching, the changes I’ve made, the tools and structure in which I’m using in my classes? I could document, and I will, about how this has supported my teaching through a personalized lens, but for now I want to focus on the following.

I, as many of us, have been caught between trying to navigate pots and pans on the stove, and my blogging has taken a “back burner” until now. Also to be frank; I’ve focused on my classes and students, and teaching, and myself. Once upon a time…when we were all physically in the classroom (in its nostalgic sense now) I would block off time in my schedule for blogging, for posting, for amplifying my learning. Although the thoughts haven’t stopped and the ideas kept flowing, and great things continued to happen, and also how I’ve alluded to multiple blog drafts begun and not completed, I allowed myself to do the first thing I’ve ever really put effort into: setting boundaries. I had to become, (and I’m still working on it) be okay with not doing everything. Be okay with what I can do is exactly: what I can do. Give myself limits. Being okay with saying no, or allowing myself to turn off.

Hard. Very hard, for someone like myself, who always has the best intentions (I hope…) and wants to help and support others, my students, my school family succeed at any given time.

If you’ve followed any of my previous posts, you may have deducted that I am a private person. I struggle with mixing my personal and professional life. Albeit, this is the uncomfortable zone which I found myself in when I started blogging…and yet, here I am again. Working from home has put me in a position to not only set boundaries but also prioritize things in a way, I never had. I am not a parent, and I can only imagine what similar juggling acts parents have to do on a daily basis, and which is only amplified during these times. For this, I am taking the next leap into my uncomfortable zone, nearly two years later, and sharing a mix of personal and private experiences, in which have come into light during these times: silver linings.

  • sharing time with loved ones, both human and furry. I’m so grateful to love and more importantly really like the people in my life and who live with me. This time has amplified how fortunate I am to spend even more time with them.
  • eating peanut butter for breakfast. I love all my students, even those with highly anaphylactic allergies to food. However, I also really love peanut butter…
  • making time. All too often we excuse ourselves for being “too busy”, but making time for people in my life, whether on Zoom, phone, or checking in with colleagues, has been a huge personal and professional builder and meaningful experience
  • seeing my students each day. They mean so much to me, to us, to each other. Being able to spend time with them each day, now virtually, has really been key. Laughing, talking, learning together, I’m not sure if they know how special they are to us, but they should
  • comfy clothes. As someone who my students and friends would admit to having closets of clothes and even a personal room in my house as a “dressing room” I love fashion and dressing up. Being able to wear comfy clothes AND work, has been a nice change-although I am looking forward to a new fall school wardrobe
  • no shoes. I grew up an urban city mouse during the school year, and full fledge country mouse in the summers in a small seaside settlement along the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia. If I could go barefoot each day, I would. Not putting shoes on each day, has been fabulous!
  • exercise. I love swimming, but with everything closed, no swimming at the moment, and with not having to rush home to walk to the dog, or staying after school to complete marking before running out of time to hit the gym, I find myself exercising more at home. Starting an at-home routine, and running in my neighbourhood- I could be the minority here, but as above, I never made time…now I do!
  • laundry and a clean house. I’m actually on top of it, and it feels good. When you wear comfy clothes in an office for a full days work, there’s less to do, and less housework…double win!
  • stepping back and letting my students do more. I talk alot. I want them to do well. I preach about this all the time, but this has allowed the students #dontstealthestruggle, and for them, it’s intrinsic now; watching them rise to the challenge, inspires me each day.

and finally…

  • knowing you’re not alone. As we all sit “alone” in our home offices, or bedrooms, or kitchen tables, the message is loud and clear. We are in this together.

As I reflect myself, (and a foreshadow of a post lingering to be uploaded soon) I share what I have experienced during this time, of course there has been frustration, and anxiety and sadness in one form of another. I do not think anyone has been immune and there is not a vaccine “for being” in unstable times.

A quote that has resonated with me, that I’ve come across on the internet (no source available-as I have searched…so I will say it is unknown) is something along the lines of:

“we may not all be in the same boat together, but we are in the same storm”

Take from it, what you may; however, to follow in those footsteps, I leave you with the excerpt from John Milton’s 1634 poem “Comus”:

“Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud/Turn forth her 

silver lining on the night?”

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