Friday, March 12, 2021

Giving Grace to Myself and to Others

Sometimes after teaching a lesson in this weird hybrid era, I think to myself, "Gosh, I am doing a horrible job here. I have no absolutely no idea what students are learning or how engaged they are. I don't know if students are acquiring anything from what we are doing. I don't know if my Zoom students are even there (since their cameras and microphones are off)! I feel completely out of my element, since it is not 100% face-to-face. Teaching in a concurrent environment is just plain hard, and I have no clue how to do it!"

However, when I do feel like that (which is A LOT), I make sure to remind myself, "But you know what? Nobody else knows really how to do this either. We are all in the same boat. You are doing the best you can at the moment just to keep your head above water, and that is okay. This is not a permanent situation by any means. Eventually, we will return back to a semblance of pre-Covid days. I just need to be patient." 

We are now coming up on a year of the COVID shelter-in-place orders and the sudden, abrupt switch to digital teaching. Honestly, these past twelve months have been very jarring. It is as if we were working on a perfectly, laid out puzzle, and suddenly, somebody came along and knocked over the puzzle table. The pieces have scattered everywhere. Naturally, we scramble to find all of the pieces so that we can put the puzzle back together again perfectly, but alas we cannot find all of missing pieces. This upsets us, because we were working so hard on that puzzle, and now it is in disorder. We look around to blame whoever knocked over the puzzle, cry, scream, get anxious, and we want to know specifically why this puzzle table has been knocked over and why we cannot find the missing pieces. But in all of this, I have learned the following: Life is a series of putting puzzles together and having them knocked out of place. And it is OKAY if we cannot find all of the pieces, because big picture - there are things which we have to accept that are going to be out of our control.

So my puzzle is currently in disarray, with pieces which I cannot find, and you know what? I have come to accept that, and I have peace. I know that for many folks, this teaching situation and the pandemic in general has been hard. Any type of life disruption can be difficult and challenging, let alone a global pandemic. But in it all, I have learned to give myself grace as a teacher. However, giving grace to myself as a teacher has not been easy thing to accomplish. As an overachieving 4%er who thrives on performing and achieving, I want to do my best. I should be the one leading the way - after all, I am the one with the graduate degree in Instructional Technology, right? But the reality of this is that teaching in a hybrid situation is hard, not to mention that I am still learning to live and to adjust to life during a global pandemic! So I have learned to accept that when it comes to teaching concurrently, I have missing puzzle pieces, and it will probably remain that way. As a result, I do not need to hold myself to a standard which is unrealistic and is based on a fully-assembled puzzle. I have purposed now to be just an "adequate" teacher, and it is so freeing!

I am realizing that when I am able to give grace to myself in this weird teaching situation, I can freely give grace to other teachers too. I think that many times because we are incredibly high overachievers, we hold ourselves to such a high standard that we impose this same standard upon everyone else, not realizing that our idea of 100% is probably 150% for everyone else. We drive ourselves to do the best to such a degree that we unknowingly or even purposely drive everyone around us to be at our standard or at least to attempt to be. Our passion for the best ends up driving others away, and in turn, we lose any bit of credibility with them. Our hearts and motivation are not really in the "right" place. We tend to insulate ourselves and associate with other overachievers so we start to think that we are normal and that everyone is and should be like us. However, this is the reality: we are not the normal ones.

I have looked over my past Tweets from a year ago when all of us suddenly were thrown into digital teaching and had no idea for how long this situation would be - I am aghast and ashamed of my tone in many of them which address teaching digitally. My tone is dogmatic and pedantic, as I "share" (but did anyone ask for it?) my Instructional Technology knowledge about how teaching digitally should be "done," and if teachers are just throwing their face-to-face lesson plans into an online environment just to give students something to do, then they were doing their students a disservice. Wow, I shirk and recoil when I read those Tweets, because while there may be some truth in what I said, by no means was it the message that needed to be heard at that time. As a profession nationwide, we were scrambling - instead, we needed messages of support and continue to do.

So to all of you teachers out there who feel like you are failing as a digital teacher, guess what? You are not alone, and we probably are failing as digital teachers. But this teaching situation is not forever. We will eventually return back to the classroom environment and interaction with students which made us glad to be teachers. We just need to be patient.

As I wonder if I have failed students as a teacher this year, let me end with an anecdote which I have shared many times on this blog: If I only look at where I fell short, then I cannot see my successes. I am reminded of what Rose Williams once said to me in the past, "(In spite of where you fell short), your students still loved you." And for where I fell short with my students? That is what next year is for - I can go in with a plan already in mind. The new school year brings hope. 

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