Gratitude

I made a choice to not write since we went into this shutdown thing. I’ve laid off from social media. Kris has also made a similar choice. We both felt like this isn’t the time to be putting ourselves out there with the possible perception of us using this time to build a brand. It isn’t a time to do that. We have no interest in doing that.

And, truthfully, it hasn’t been the right time for us to write about how we are dealing with the distance learning thing in our district. While we both believe that the plan is good, we both know that we are like everyone else in the world right now.

We are figuring things out each day. We are trying to do what’s best for kids. In that process, we are making mistakes. We are learning. We are adapting. Anyone who is publishing answers to what is going on is being disingenuous. This has never happened before. There is no “one size fits all” solution for all of education. Heck, there’s no “one size fits all” for a single district.

And, it is certainly not the time to champion reform in education, seizing on a pandemic to make a point. So, instead, we have chosen to focus on our district, our students, and our families. I truly hope that each and every person who is taking the time to read this have done the same.

But, I feel compelled to write today because of a District Challenge that Kris has sent out. It is a gratitude challenge. It is a time to thank our colleagues in education and help remind us that despite all of the chaos going on, there is so much good going on. So, I figured I would use my platform for that.

I have long said that I have the best job in the North Rockland Central School District. In addition to teaching the greatest students, I am fortunate enough to be the English Department Coordinator for grades 7 through 12. It means I get to work alongside 40 colleagues, planning and implementing our curriculum.

Like everyone else, our department has been thrown into a new world. No longer do we get to teach the subject we love in person. We don’t get to feel the vibe of a class. We don’t get the same one-on-one interactions with our students. One of the hallmarks of teaching English is that we are allowed for our individuality, cultivating the content to help teach skills in our own unique ways. If there are 40 of us, there are at least 40 different ways to teach any particular skill. One would think that this wouldn’t play well during distance learning where we are better off teaming up and pooling our resources. One would be wrong.

I am so damn grateful that I work in North Rockland. Everything we do is in the best interests of kids. We let empathy and compassion guide us in every decision. My department is the epitome of all of that.

Over the past three weeks, my team has been non-stop. They’ve been reaching out to their kids, posting these messages filled with love. They’ve been mindful in every single discussion that our kids, our families, our community are going through so much. Yes, we will give our students work. Yes, we will have standards. But, we will never lose sight of the most important thing—that our kids are safe. Every online meeting that we’ve had since our closure has had that feeling at the center.

My colleagues pass along the stories how our some student’s parents are sick right now. Some of our students are taking care of younger brothers and sisters, while their parents are bravely going to work every day. Some of our students have been stricken with the virus. Some are sharing a device with the household, sometimes not being able to access work until the night. These are the conversations that are guiding our decisions with our online lessons. Humanity and compassion ooze out of their words.

As we have transitioned to this online world, I see our department coming together. Younger teachers are taking the lead on technology, tutoring our veterans. Our veteran teachers are showing all of us that a willingness to learn can help overcome almost everything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a colleague say, “I am taking this time to embrace learning all of these new things.”

At a time in education where many do not share lessons and resources, my colleagues are coming together. Shared Google Drive folders are filling up with shared plans. People are meeting virtually to go over their plans, share resources, learn new skills. Group text threads are not only filled with humor but links to resources. People are asking for help; people are offering help. It is truly amazing to see everyone I work with realize how just valuable they are to our department, to our district, and to our kids.

And, they are doing this while dealing with their own families, their children’s fears, their worry for their own parents, worrying about the same things we are all worried about. Yet, every meeting is filled with that compassion I mentioned earlier. Everybody is concerned for their students and navigating our way through this whole thing with them.

I know there are teachers like this all over. I know my district is a special place and other departments and buildings are feeling the same way. But, this is my crew. It is a privilege and an honor to work with them. We may be the “Crazy” or “Dramatic” English Department, but there is no other group of people I would rather work with than them.

There is so much uncertainty right now. We are all still figuring out how to do this right and make it meaningful for kids. But, I am certain of these three things:

1-I am grateful to be a Teacher.
2-I am grateful to work in North Rockland, a place where we just don’t talk about family is important, but we actually always put family first.
3-I am so damn grateful for my English Department colleagues.
To my English Department…

Thank you for always putting kids first. Thank you for always being willing to help me and each other. Thank you for all of your kind words over the years. Thank you for all of the crazy moments that only an English Teacher would understand. Thank you for the passion for the profession. Thank you for all of the inspiration. I can say that I have learned something from each and every one of you. You have all taught me so much.

I am so grateful I get to work with you all.

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