Peaks and Valleys

Posted By: James Sutfin AASPA Blog ,

Life is all about perspective. On March 12, 2019 our students were participating in learning, preparing for state exams, and fully engaging in their co-curricular activities. Over the previous weekend there was a single positive case of COVID-19 in a neighboring community 20 miles away. We did not return to school on Friday, March 13. In a matter of 24 hours we slid from our peak to the bottom of the valley. 

The spring was spent with 100% remote learning and trying to stay connected with our students. Priority was helping our seniors graduate and transitioning our students between levels. To coin an old phrase, we were doing everything we could do to make lemonade out of lemons. Teachers were amazing doing everything they could do to stay connected to their students. The school year ended and COVID picked up speed. 

Fast forward to August 10 our first day of school. We opened with students in the building. The summer was spent developing safety protocols and purchasing PPE. Anxiety was high and stress moved from acute to chronic for our educators and families. As a stop gap we offered concurrent remote learning and nearly 20% of our families chose that option. There is no doubt that we have asked more from our educators this fall than at any time in the history of our school district. And, they responded. 

We just finished our first quarter of school. We are still open. We have seen little to no spread of COVID in our district. We played sports and marched in the band. Teacher creativity skyrocketed and morale struggled. There has been so much loss for educators since March 12. One 24 hour period took us from our peak to the bottom of the valley. Rebuilding is impossible when you focus only on what you lost. Therefore, today we no longer look at life from March 12, but rather March 13. Educators are builders. As humans we can’t live inside a bubble of chronic stress that is caused by so much change and grief from those things that we lost.

There is, however, a silver lining and that is focusing on a growth mindset. Letting go of March 12 and focusing on how far we have come since March 13 is inspiring. I see it everyday. Teachers diving in and helping students. Teachers creating safe environments and building relationships with students. Teachers trying new things. Teachers learning to better use technology and gaining back the flow that was present before COVID are indicators that we are again ascending the mountain. Just like an athlete that tears their ACL there is a time period of hurt and loss followed by rapid growth and improvement. Satisfaction comes from focusing not on what we lost, but instead on what we have gained. 

On March 13 we were stuck at the bottom of the valley and looked towards the mountain we had to climb. It was overwhelming to think about the next steps we needed to take. The peak of this new mountain will not be the same as the one we rapidly descended last March when COVID changed our world. This peak will be different. We are different. You can’t, as an educator, go through the pandemic and not be impacted. I am proud of what I have seen educators accomplish for kids all across our country. I am proud of how our teachers have persevered. Each day we are getting a little stronger. Each day we are taking a step towards our new mountain top. There is no doubt that the view on top will be glorious, but the beauty will be looking back and seeing what we created under the most difficult of circumstances. The satisfaction will come from looking back and knowing we took the right steps for our students. It is all about perspective.