Appreciating "What Was" and "What Will Be" - 3/28/2020

Earlier this week, I listened to George Couros' podcast, The Innovators' Mindset, episode 12B. In this episode, he interviewed Jimmy Casas, author of "Culturize" and newly released, "Live Your Excellence." If you haven't read "Culturize" yet, you should. "Live Your Excellence" is on my TBR (To Be Read) List and I hope to read it soon.

The entire episode was amazing; it was just what I needed to hear as I, as a tech coach, grappel with how to best support my school staff as we embark on a "distance learning" journey. But one of the things that struck me the most was as Jimmy reflected on his newly found appreciation for the way things had been.

In my 3/21/2020 post, I shared my reflections on this new normal, starting with my wish for more time, ie. snow days and the new normal of having to schedule much more time now. Sometimes, you need to be careful what you wish for, my daughter reminded me. Week #1 of the new normal involved lots of "unscheduled time for me." But Week #2 was dramatically different. As my district determined how we would implement "distance learning", my days became busier and longer as I moved to the front lines. It was exhausting. I wondered why I felt that way last night as we ordered pizza, since I was too tired to cook. Once again, I went back to the idea of "what I missed" or "what I now appreciated from before."

There were many things that crossed my mind. But the first one was definitely my students. As a tech coach in an elementary school, one of my responsibilities is to teach 30 minute classes in the master schedule. Like many of my fellow tech coaches, there are many times I lament on this responsibility- wanting to do more coteaching with my colleagues. But the past two weeks, I have really missed my students in Kindergarten through Grade 3.

I miss their excitement as they walk in the doors of my cozy computer lab, eager to find out what our learning target is for the day. I loved seeing their independence increase as the year progressed and as they shared new ways to create.

My kinders were in my favorite part of the year, where they begin creating on Wixie. They were finishing their first pieces for their Career portfolios where they shared what they wanted to be when they grew up and how they would spend the money they earned.

My third graders were making "collagasauruses" using #SmithsonianOpen Access and Adobe Spark post. They were doing such amazing work using creative workflow. They were inspiring me daily with their creations.

I miss their excitement- their enthusiasm. I love working with students and hope that I will still get opportunities to connect with them in a virtual school environment.

The second thing that came to mind was working with my colleagues. In grades 4-6, I coteach biweekly lessons with my colleagues. As the year progressed, this went from more of a tech coach led focus to a collaborative focus. I loved the excitement when teachers reached out to me with ideas or to see how we could implement something new based on an idea that they heard from a fellow colleague.

We were on a roll- learning ways to use new tech tools to amplify their students' creative and critical thinking skills. Adding programs such as Flipgrid, Pear Deck and Adobe Spark to their teacher toolboxes was amazing and seeing how it empowered their students was even better.

I loved walking around in the mornings and checking in with my colleagues. Being there to offer help on the fly, but also to get to know them better and build relationships. This is something that I really want to continue- but like all of us, I am still a newbie using virtual platforms such as Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to connect. I want to be able to support them the best way I can, this is all of our first experiences with "distance learning."

Then, there are the little things that surprised me-

I miss my morning and afternoon commute. As strange as this might sound, I miss this time to slowly transition from home to work. This was my time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while reflecting. Someone suggested to me walking around my neighborhood as a replacement- maybe I will try this next week and see if it works. Who knew that I would appreciate my commute this much?

I miss my Tuesday and Thursday morning duty- where I stand outside the school. On these mornings, I would greet students with "Good morning." I loved how so many students would run up and give me a hug, while other students would ask if I was seeing them that day.

Lastly, I miss hearing about my husband's and my own children's days. Their days used to be filled with so many activities. Getting to hear about what they were up to and learning was always a highlight of my day. Now, we are all at home. My husband and I are sharing an office. My children have not started distance learning yet.

We are always together- which is nice. We get to have family dinners each night, which I do appreciate, but I miss their excitement as they shared their lives outside of our home. My son's excitement over his senior year. My daughter's excitement over being the Cat in the Hat and all of her other activities.

I live in Virginia and the governor has closed all schools for the remainder of the academic year. The next ten weeks will be very different for all of us. We will live in an academic world with no standardized tests, no grades, and no in person connections. I can't begin to imagine how this will change our educational landscape.

It has changed all of us so much already. I have a new appreciation for "what was" and so much curiosity for "what will be." We live so much of our lives taking things for granted: the food we eat and its availability, the ease of travel, the modern day conveniences we have. Maybe we all need to take a break and appreciate "what we had" so that once we have it again, it will matter more.