Opening Up New Boxes- 9/20/2020

Yesterday, my family and I celebrated the Jewish New Year. For as long as I can remember, this time of year has been one of my favorite times of the year. I love making the yummy holiday foods: the matzah ball soup, the brisket, round challah and more. I love getting dressed up, wrapping myself in my prayer shawl like I have since the age of 13, and attending temple services, enjoying the special melodies for this time of year.

But this year was not the same. I tried really hard. I made all of my favorite holiday foods for a family Rosh Hashana dinner. Even that was different- my son is at West Virginia University and this was the first time in 18 years that he was not with me for the holidays.

Things continued to be different as we attended services, The services that I love with their special melodies still happened, but this time, they happened through a computer screen. I still wore my beloved prayer shawl, but once again, it was different.

It seems like the theme of this year has been the same, but different. I started a school year a few weeks ago. Yes, I am still a School Based Technology Specialist at Sangster Elementary School. Yes, I am still supporting teachers and students using technology. But just like the New Year, so many things are so different.

My days going into classrooms to coteach are no more. We are all teaching virtually and time with students is at a premium. My days teaching technology to grades K to 3 are also a thing of the past.. I am now part of a STEAM team and teaching STEAM to eight sections of grade 3 to 6 students in a virtual classroom. Now, I am not just supporting staff and students, but also spending time providing tech support to families as we navigate this new normal.

All of this change is exhausting. It requires so much more effort. It is like starting over- being a new educator. To add to all that, social distancing and remote learning have made many of these experiences feel solitary even while engaged with other people. I spend five days a week working in my building and most days, I see 2 maybe 3 people face to face. Too much of my time is spent talking to and looking at screens. I am so tired all the time. Work never seems to end and by the time I get home, I am done. The last thing I want to do when I get home is look at screens. I miss doing Twitter chats and online book clubs, but I just can't seem to pull myself back to screens after dinner.

Yesterday as part of the sermon, our new rabbi at the temple (yes, we even have new leadership this year at my temple) talked about this year being a year of boxes- from him moving here from New Jersey, to being in boxes on Zoom, to all the boxes delivered to our doorsteps. We all chuckled at these thoughts, but know how true this sentiment is. But then he talked about the possibilities of new boxes yet to be opened. What can be instead of just what had been?

This idea really struck me. I feel like I have been spending so much time mourning what had been, what I miss about being at school, what's different, how hard everything seems now. This feeling fills you with despair and leaves you feeling depleted.

I am so tired of being tired. I love my school and everyone I work with. I give them my all, because of that. But I need to stop mourning and start looking forward to opening some new boxes. This summer, I did much better with that. I "traveled" around the country presenting virtually. I participated in book clubs with people around the county. I took risks and helped myself to grow.

But since school started, I have just been treading water- we all have. Even blogging has for the most part, fallen to the wayside. The CHALLENGE goals that I set for myself have gone most ignored, and I feel it. I need to refocus, while giving myself grace. I need to start taking time for me again. Easier said than done, I know, but as all things, I will start one step at a time, one box at a time.

Maybe I need to CHALLENGE myself to find the silver linings in all of these new boxes. After all, services were super comfy and cozy this year at home. I am building strong relationships within my school community as I provide families tech support and I am learning a whole new skill set teaching STEAM. Who knows what is ahead? Who knows what possibilities await?