This happened

I usually write whenever I see something amazing or am working through an issue. Writing is one of the ways I reflect on and process the day or the week. It helps me narrow my thinking, find bright spots, and create a plan to move forward. I have the start of about fifteen blog posts from the last two months that I have never finished. It took me a while to figure out exactly why. I had been wired to take one night or one weekend afternoon all to myself each week, go to a coffee shop, put in my headphones, and finish my posts. I love the time I get to think deeply about my work or my life, capture those thoughts and complete a post that I want to share with the world. I probably spend more time in the editing process than I should for a blog, but I like the sense of accomplishment when I feel like I’ve captured something important to me that can maybe help others too. This is where I got stuck.  

I was wired to think that I couldn’t finish a post without my coffee shop time all on my own. I started to pay attention to the other ways we are all wired differently given the last year.

This happened:

  • Unexpected emergency shut down
  • A summer of planning and uncertainty
  • Sick family members and friends
  • Loss of family members, friends, employees
  • Horrifying injustice across our nation 
  • Protests
  • A challenging election
  • More uncertainty
  • Planning to be a virtual school district
  • Economic issues
  • Disconnect and isolation
  • Increase in mental health issues

This is a list of things most of us would not want to see in a lifetime, much less to experience all in one year. However, we have to acknowledge that

This also happened:

  • More time with family and friends, even when it is virtual
  • New connections to people all over our nation and world
  • New babies on our teams and in our families
  • A new appreciation for teachers 
  • New connections to the families we serve
  • A narrow focus on what matters most
  • A more thoughtful approach to why we do what we do and if it should change
  • More open conversations about historical marginalization
  • Opportunities to rethink education
  • So, so, so many people going far above and beyond to support one another

While there have been really tough times, there have also been some incredible moments that have come out of the last year that we need to talk about and celebrate. 

We have to recognize that we are now wired to respond differently than we were before. Our brains rely on new supports and routines, some of which we are all anxious to unlearn and some that we all want to keep. It hit me one day when I was driving to pick something up. I looked over to see our dog sitting in the front seat next to me and my children sitting in the back. The dog has become wired to go with us everywhere we go and call shotgun on sitting in the front seat. He immediately lays in front of the door if he sees us go anywhere near shoes or keys in an effort never to get left behind, and we have adapted to him going everywhere and sitting in the front seat without really thinking about it.  

If the dog is wired differently, so are we, and so are the children we serve in schools. Since the start of the year, we had been virtual and just started welcoming students back into physical buildings last week. We have all felt anxious for the last couple of months while we tried to ensure we have the right safety measures in place and all the right technology and supplies to make this work, but that anxiety quickly turned to excitement. Teachers went from fear of how we will supervise our hallways to ideas about creating new ways to connect with learners and connect them to each other through our technology tools. Our elementary music teachers had to adjust to not being able to sing in the classroom, but they adapted. I got to watch a VERY loud but excited group of learners figure out how to follow patterns and rhythm to drum on large plastic buckets instead of singing in their music class. I saw inspired children and a very patient teacher all learning something new. 

After our first full day, most people commented on how quiet the students were but how quickly they adapted to the new safety measures and routines. Many of them were nervous and scared, but they jumped right in. They quickly got rewired to how different the school looks and how we do things in new ways. It will still take time to adjust to the interaction with each other and the staff, but I am confident they will be as active as ever by the end of the week. 

We have spent a lot of time talking as a leadership team about how to support one another as adults and learners get used to returning to physical schools over the last two months while there are still many uncertainties in the world around us. We have talked about the ways in which we are wired differently and talked openly about the trauma that many people have experienced in the last year. We also talked about the new skills we have learned and the new ways in which we all problem solve and are resilient. We shared tools and strategies to support one another and our learners with our teams of student services staff, mental health providers, and instructional coaches. We learned about all kinds of new adaptive tools that we are trying out to keep learners connected and give everyone access. We also talked about taking the time to reestablish classroom communities and reconnect to each other, giving each other a lot of grace with we unlearn and relearn and, most importantly, give lots of permission to get creative and try new things.  

Our brains have a remarkable capacity to adapt, adjust and rewire. Apparently, I can be rewired to finish a blog post somewhere other than a coffee shop. This has been such a challenging and amazing year. I am happy for some of the ways I am rewired and reflect a lot on the ones that I still need to work on. Our superintendent always reminds us that we should not focus on what’s wrong but instead look for what’s possible. I’m excited to continue to look for what’s possible next as we learn, grow, and rewire to different, and in some ways, better ways of doing things.     

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