A "New Normal"- 3/21/2020

A month ago, I was among the many educators lamenting the lack of snow days this year. In my district, we have 20 snow days and before this extended closure, we had only used one day. All of our students were wishing for snow and the excitement of waking up to a snow day. Things were busy at school and many days, I wished that I could have a snow day, some time to take it easy, catch up with sleep, and relax.

All that changed last week. As COVID-19 began to fill the newswaves, there was a frenzy to prep in my district. How would we implement distance learning? We originally were told we would have a staff development day the following Monday, where staff would be trained for our district's plan for distance learning. I participated in many virtual trainings to prepare. But this situation has been constantly changing and even those plans changed.

Last Thursday night, my district announced they were closing for students for four weeks and possibly for staff for two weeks due to COVID-19. Originally, we were supposed to distribute technology to families in need this past Monday, but even these plans changed. Now, we are closed until further notice and every day, new information is coming out.

It is a new normal. Something that is unchartered waters for all of us. Our family's routines have been completely disrupted.

My husband is no longer lamenting about his hour and half commute on Metro to DC. He is now working 100% remotely from our home office, while trying to move his parents down closer to this area. His mom is having the closing for his childhood home in New York today- I was afraid to travel with him. What if I couldn't get back to my children if a shelter in place happened. His dad is in a nursing home in New York, but due to COVID-19, he can not switch nursing homes, can't have any visitors. They are trying to kept their residents safe.

My son is a senior in high school. So much uncertainty surrounds him. Will he get to participate in senior landmarks, the prom, graduation, it is all unknown?

My daughter is an eighth grader. She misses participating in her dance and theatre classes. She is worried about the musical where she is the Cat in the Hat, Seussical, being cancelled. It is in May- but who knows? Her dad lives in Maryland and she wants to visit him, but we want to limit her risk.

And myself? As an edtech coach, I want to help as much as I can, but there are so many unknowns. My goal this week has been to learn as much as I can to support staff, but let's face it- this is an unprecedented time-we are building the boat as we are making it.

Time- a month ago, I was craving it and now, I find myself needing to fill the hours of my days. How am I going to set up a new schedule? How can I implement some of my "old" routines into my new normal? Self care is so important in this time. As we always hear, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, but there is a lot of fear and anxiety all around us.

A week in, I am trying to do just that- not only for myself, but my family.

Before COVID-19, I exercised regularly, walking my dog every day in the morning. Now, I have ramped up this practice. Like many other educators, I am participating in #teacher26, a virtual marathon, logging miles each day. I am walking 2-4 miles each day in the morning, and making sure that my daughter and I also walk the dog each afternoon.

Before COVID-19, I read 10-15 minutes each morning, after my walk. Now, I am working on continuing this practice, reading books that fill my soul and inspire me for the future.

Before COVID-19, I journaled every day, reflecting on both my goals and sharing ways that I am grateful. Now, I am continuing that practice- journaling daily and taking time to identify things that I am grateful for every day.

Ultimately, I truly know how lucky I am. As I shared with my daughter during our walk yesterday, we are so fortunate to have technology that allows us to stay connected. We have many advantages that were not available even ten years ago. My family and I are healthy; we live in a well-stocked home and have all of our needs met. We can connect with others through social media and using video conferencing. We can stay informed through a variety of mediums of current news concerning this pandemic. We have each other to depend on. We are safe.

Rather than lament on the "inconveniences" of this new normal, let's make the best we can of this. Yes, it is not ideal- but we can get through this. Just think of how much more we will appreciate the "old"normal after this passes.

As we enter week 2 of this "new normal," I try to think of the lessons learned so far. How can I take what I have learned so far and use them as I move forward? How can I use this experience and make the best of it? To help my family make the most of it? Best help my school through these unprecedented times? I don't have the answers; none of us do. But right now, that's okay- we will figure out this "new normal" together.