The Certainty of Uncertainty
I keep hearing the term “uncertain times” applied to our lives now and that is certainly true. Let’s travel back in time to another uncertain time in my life.
I’ve shared with you before that my dad worked for Braniff Airlines when I was a kid. We always knew flying “standby” (waiting for available seats) would be an adventure, but one trip was more uncertain than usual. There were four of us flying from Dallas, Texas to Jackson, Wyoming with a layover in Salt Lake City, Utah. We eventually made it to Salt Lake City, but then got to experience a six-hour layover in order to get the last flight to Wyoming. I was in third grade and my sister in fifth, so you can imagine the boredom of two kids before smartphones and video games.
After a long day of travel, we eventually reached Wyoming, but our bags did not. Thankfully, we were visiting family so we borrowed warm clothes so we could go skiing. My first day on the slopes, I learned how to ski and then promptly fell and twisted a knee. I skied the rest of the day and that evening after a trip to the emergency room, discovered I had a pulled ligament which meant wearing a brace and spending the remainder of the week in the gift shop while the rest of my family enjoyed the snow. Let me remind you, this was day one of a week-long vacation.
This trip was not the one I had hoped or planned for, but it is certainly a memorable one. And even though I didn’t get to do everything on vacation that I wanted, there were some moments that were wonderful nonetheless.
Every school year brings its challenges, but this one has been a doozy! In my thirty years in the classroom, I’ve seen 9/11, funding cuts resulting in teacher layoffs, school closures due to fires and hurricanes, and now a novel virus. This is not the school year we had hoped for, but it will certainly be a memorable one. And even though we are missing our face to face interaction with students and colleagues, there will still be some wonderful moments.
Learning is Still Taking Place
I have seen so many teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and more finding ways to allow kids to continue to learn. Computers are loaned to students, internet providers are giving away services, and students and their families are braving the new territory of learning online. It looks different in every school district and every household, but kids are getting instruction. There is also a great deal of “passive” learning taking place when families cook together, set a schedule to share the television, and discuss current events including maps and scientific discoveries while we wait for this pandemic to begin to fade.
Educators Are Making Connections
I can’t think of a time when educators have been as brave as I have witnessed in the recent days. Not only have they called to personally check in with students, they have worked to get equipment and resources in students’ hands, and then set a monumental learning curve to locate, customize, and deliver instruction in a brand new way to the students they miss so much. I’m so proud to be in the good company of these hard-working people.
We’re in This Together
Everyone is losing instructional days, everyone needs more technology and more bandwidth, and everyone is worried that students will fall behind. Yes, there may be some instructional gaps when students return to the classroom, but I know from the work I’ve seen take place that our teachers are more than up for the challenge of filling those gaps when we get back to business as usual. And I have no doubt that both students and teachers have gained unknown skills and qualities that will pay off in the classroom and beyond.
Consider this one very long, unexpected journey to an unexplored location. Celebrate the new knowledge you and your students are collecting. Stop and be still when you need a few moments to get composed. Take a walk or just look out the window to let the sun shine on your face. It’s a long trip, but what a great story it will make when we get to the other side. And just like any great trip, we will never be the same again.