I'm not a very reactive person, at least not quickly. I tend to hang back, collect information, and take time to process before responding--especially in times of stress. So, here I am now, nearly three weeks into this new way of life--this new way of teaching--just now responding.
And my opinion probably won't be the popular one. But it's my truest one.
If we’re not returning May 1, the powers that be just need to declare the school year done. Over. No more virtual learning. Not because I'm a lazy employee. Not because I don't care about the education of our kids. But rather because I care--about our kids, our families, our teachers, and the integrity of what we're calling education.
We've all been thrown into an impossible situation and the stress of virtual teaching & learning is compounding what might be the most traumatic time any of us have experienced. We talk about how students can't learn when they feel unsafe--when their brains are in fight/flight/freeze mode--yet amid reports of escalating deaths & diminishing resources we introduce an entirely new way of operating with little to no training, and expect that--somehow--the result will defy what we know is academically and emotionally sound.
Quality learning CAN NOT HAPPEN in these circumstances, when we are fearing for the lives of our family members, ourselves, and our own children. Why do grammar rules or fractions or the water cycle matter when I don't even know if all my family and friends will make it out of this time alive?
This virtual schooling is creating stress on kids who have no idea what the hell is going on and why their lives are suddenly turned upside down; why they can no longer see their friends and extended family; why the grown-ups in their lives are so edgy and cry so often. It's creating stress on parents who are trying to take care of those kids AND work from home AND, without training, suddenly become teachers. And the actual teachers, especially those who are also moms, attempting to juggle 2+ teaching jobs...well, it simply doesn't work, at least not well.
It's as if our kids and teachers have been thrown into the pool before they've had a swimming lesson and, as they're flailing, the higher-ups yell out "be safe...take care of yourself...we care about you! But swim faster, okay?" The only reason teachers aren't jumping out of the pool is because they do what they've traditionally done for years--put up with nearly impossible standards and situations for the kids. The kids who, in this case, are trying to keep their heads above water right there with them. If we bail, the kids might think they can bail, too. If we bail, we abandon our kids at a difficult time. And we'll damn near drown before we do that.
This whole situation has cast a big light on the chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots", not just in regard to teachers' abilities to adapt to new ways of teaching, but in terms of students' abilities to adapt to new ways of learning and their access to resources. Not every child lives in a home that's conducive to learning, or that's even safe for that matter. Even if access to technology isn't an issue, some parents simply aren't able to help their child the way others can, whether due to their own lack of education, a language barrier, or a myriad other reasons.
So, what is the argument for continuing? Is it that we can't lose precious instructional days? Why then is it acceptable then for them to be lost over 8-10 weeks of summer year after year? I know this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I say send me back early next year and cut my summer short if you have to. But now--in the most stressful time of my life--let me focus on keeping my family and myself okay; let me focus on surviving this. Let the kids make up the days when their heads can be in the game & the playing field can be level for them and us.
Now, if the concern is over teachers and other school staff making up the days so pay and benefits can be justified, then that's a whole different, more deeply-rooted issue that needs to be reexamined. The concept of teachers having to hustle to constantly prove their worth is nothing new. The message is and has often been "do this nearly impossible thing--and do it well--or you may lose your job and the benefits your family depends upon". And so we do it, not just for the kids, but because we look around at the unemployment rate right now and the crashing economy and we're scared.
Some of you may be thinking "we're all scared of losing our jobs--stop complaining, at least you have one!" And that's a valid point now, but for the teaching profession that sentiment is nothing new--this perception of a largely female workforce "complaining" rather than advocating has been around for decades & is the reason we've fought so long for fairer pay as demands have increased. It's a soapbox for another time, but here's the point: if teachers and other school staff were to have these days waived without losing the benefits their families depend upon, maybe it would go a long way toward helping these professionals feel respected. Perhaps this is an opportunity for reparation.
Reparation is defined as "the action of repairing something". As I see it, the educational system is one that has been in need of repair on many levels and it's as if this entire situation has put a magnifying glass on the beliefs and practices that have been in disrepair for some time. We are an industry that likes to build the plane while flying it; we are reactive rather than thoughtfully proactive, giving in to the pressure of the public by acting as if we're ready before we really are, which is exactly the opposite of what we want to teach our kids to do under stress. Rather than pause for just a moment and allow ourselves the time and space to put together a thoughtful plan of action during an unprecedented time of crisis, the system scrambles and pays the price with ever-changing platforms and unnecessary stress and confusion for teachers and learners (not to mention the parents helping).
One of my mentors says that, as a mother, she wants to be a model for her kids, not a martyr. Maybe, in this case, we need to rethink what doing it "for the kids" looks like. Maybe what we should model for the kids is not going along with what we know isn't best practice but instead voicing, as professionals, what's needed for them and for us. Perhaps what we need to model is to not scramble hastily, but to be still and choose wisely where to best focus our energy. And I'd say during this unprecedented, tragic period of time what we need to focus on most is to simply come through the other side of this okay...
...to focus on showing our kids care; attention; calm; a lighter load
...to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to the social-emotional well-being we claim to care so much about
...to show them that yes, we do care deeply about their education, and it's because we value it so highly that we won't offer them a makeshift version and call it the same thing
...that, while education is important, we care more deeply about them as people and want them to put their safety and well-being first.
And the same goes for our teachers. The ones that, sadly, it took a global pandemic and society coming to a halt in order to fully appreciate.
As a very temporary solution, virtual learning can get us through a short time, and I recognize and appreciate the great efforts our school districts have made to help do just that. But Florida has yet to see our peak of covid-19 and if teachers, families, and students are overwhelmed now, I can't imagine the weeks to come. This would be a rare opportunity for the education system, often dogged as one that fails to value their teachers and students' needs beyond academics, to press the restart button; to reprioritize and start a new and better beginning after this all passes.
For the well-being of everyone, for the sake of quality instruction over simply saying we put in our days...let's cut our losses and call it a year. It's not throwing in the towel--it's throwing a life preserver to the teachers, parents, & students who are drowning when they need it most.
The opinions expressed in this article are mine only and are not representative of my school or coworkers.
When did it become "mean" or "bad" to enforce rules, limits, boundaries, or consequences of any kind? When did setting restrictions become synonymous with lacking empathy?
I suppose some would say I'm pretty liberal when it comes to discipline with kids in the sense that I see misbehavior not as something to squash, but as a call for help--a plea for the adults in their life to dig deeper and give them the tools they need. They don't know what they don't know, so a child's behavior is the language they speak when they can't articulate their needs. I suppose this is true with adults, too. However, pain or ignorance is not a free pass--personal responsibility plays a role.
When my own child or a student of mine is acting out, I do not go immediately to enforcing a consequence; rather, I look underneath with the intention to connect. 9 times out of 10, there's something bigger going on and addressing that need takes care of the behavior.
And yet, at the same time, I also understand the need for discipline.
Discipline comes from the word "disciple", which is derived from an Old English word meaning "one who follows another for the purpose of learning". Discipline between adult and child is simply an exchange of teaching and learning. Somehow we've lost sight of this and the word "discipline" has gained a negative connotation.
As I see it, the job of adults--you know, those with a fully-developed frontal lobe and oodles of life experience to draw from--is to teach those who do not yet have those things...not the other way around. The ones with the still-developing brains who aren't yet capable of fully understanding the relationship between choices & consequences are not the ones who should be making the decisions. They need US to do that. And, often, that involves the setting of limits and restrictions.
Kids need the safety of structure--the container of our rules and boundaries--in order to feel safe.
Do they realize that? No.
Will they want it? Request it? Heck, no!
Do they need it? YES.
Ask my six year-old if he'd like to brush his teeth every night and he'll say "no thanks". Ask my twelve year-old student if he'd like to learn the monotonous task of computer keyboarding and he'll say "no, I'd rather play games". If it's up to them, they'll have rotten teeth and will be hunting & pecking their way through college papers. Why? Because they are not yet capable of being the decision-makers. So we must be. To use a phrase that seems to be out of fashion, it's for their own good.
I hope you'll hear this: kids need your limits--your restrictions.
They need to understand that, yes, they always have a choice...but that their choices aren't free of consequences.
They'll likely be mad and you may feel uncomfortable--it stinks to be the heavy. I know this because I struggle with it myself. By nature, I'm uncomfortable with confrontation and my tendency with anything is to take the path of least resistance. So I have to really remind myself of the things I know are best and breathe through the discomfort. My comfort comes from knowing that--in the long run--I'm doing right for them.
I remind myself that discipline helped me to accomplish great things in my own life. I remind myself that, without the enforcement of discipline (discipline I did NOT want at the time), I never would've placed within the top 10 in the nation as a dancer--I hated getting up at 5am for practice. I never would've felt the accomplishment or reaped the benefit of finishing grad school (writing papers was hard).
I remind myself that discipline & restriction, while not easy, continues to help me. When the impulsive part of my brain wants to fire back that text while driving, the restriction of the law helps prevent me from doing something that could hurt me or someone else. When I don't want to exercise or when I want to eat the whole sleeve of Girl Scout cookies, I know I must exercise that discipline if I want to live a healthy, good life.
And yet, part of that good life I live is knowing I am loved and cared for by those around me. The loved ones in my life show me empathy and care and authentic connection. They forgive me (and I forgive me) when I slip up or fall short.
My point is this: you can have both and it takes both--restriction AND love; discipline AND connection. One without the other, either way, eventually leads to dysfunction.
It's not about being behaviorally liberal or conservative; being PC or non-PC; a boomer or being "woke". When the world wants us to join a camp, to follow the pendulum swinging to the opposite end--just remember, it's about balance. The yin & the yang.
Somewhere between "my way or the highway" and "the path of least resistance", there's a sometimes rocky, not-always-smooth middle ground that I believe--if walked closely hand-in-hand with those we love--leads to somewhere really beautiful.
I recently heard a well-known relationship expert who has been married over 30 years say that the "secret" to her enduring marriage isn't so much a particular set of habits or actions, but more a willingness on both their parts to allow the relationship to continually evolve. She said "I've had many different marriages, all with the same man."
While I won't pretend to have her expertise or experience--my husband and I have been together 11 years & married 8--I already get exactly what she's saying. Even after roughly a decade together, I can see how a marriage has different "incarnations".
One of my hesitations about marriage, and probably one of the reasons I waited until my 30's to marry, was that I had trouble picturing that two separate people--each with their own dreams & goals--would be able to change together, at the same rate and in the same ways. What I've come to see in my own relationship is that a marriage can survive your individual changes, as long as you allow it room to; as long as you're not trying to hang onto & force what it once was.
Even after less than a decade of marriage I can tell you that, if we tried to force our relationship today to look like it did in the beginning, we would be continually frustrated and probably wouldn't feel successful--it was a completely different dynamic with completely different circumstances.
Our original marriage looked like quiet dinners out with distraction-free conversation; weekend nights out with friends until 1am and sex whenever we darn well pleased. It was the freedom and space and time to put each other first. Looking back, it was a walk on the beach--but with that comes a less-than-sturdy foundation of soft sand. The strength of that marriage was based not on what we'd survived, but on our hopes and dreams for the future. In a sense, it was a marriage that was both easy and uneasy at the same time.
The day we became parents that incarnation of our marriage died. It was immediately clear when our son was laid on my chest that we were no longer the most important person in each other's lives. In an instant we both viewed not just our marriage--but life itself--through a completely new set of lenses, and I think the key to us making it through that period was that neither of us tried to hang onto an old pair.
This new marriage was a little more like trudging through the mud than a walk on the beach, as we had to adjust to completely foreign territory. It was sleepless, sexless nights and arguments like we'd never had because no cause had ever mattered so much. But this marriage was also fortified by a deep, shared love--the kind that comes from looking into a set of eyes that look a little like yours and a little like mine.
Without saying it out loud, I think at some point we both chose to let go of trying to get back to that place we'd been--that walk on the beach--and chose instead to trudge through the mud together, with the hope that we'd eventually make our way to more solid ground. And we did, but what I think makes the marriage we have now work is that we've both let go of the illusion of "happily ever after" and have accepted that our walk together will be through all kinds of terrain--bumpy, smooth, and everything in between. The marriage we have today is not so much a result of us "growing together", but a result of me pulling him through the swamp sometimes, him pulling me other times...but neither one of us wanting to leave the other behind.
This marriage might appear less glamourous, but its foundation is so much more solid, as it's no longer built on what's to come, but on what we've seen each other through. It's planning for a romantic night and then both of us falling asleep way too early because we so desperately need it. It's 70% of our conversations being about the logistics of keeping all the balls of life in the air, but 30% being more meaningful than 80% of the conversations we had in the beginning ever were. It's less frequent sex (but way better). It's trading out knock-down-drag-out fights for compromise, not because one of us is folding for the other, but because we realize at this point it's simply far more effective to look each other dead in the eye and say "look, this matters to me so deeply because I love you so much, so we've gotta just figure this out".
Lord knows there's been a loss of that mystery that makes a partner attractive, but it's made up for by the appeal that comes from knowing so intimately what the other likes, by little gestures of kindness for one another, and by watching the other be such a great parent.
It's a marriage where the things we used to find attractive have evolved just as the things we need to feel attracted have, too. I find it appealing when he brings my favorite magazine or chocolate bar home from the store and cooks dinner so I can write; or when he picks our son up from school to take at least one thing off my really full plate. I hear him talk about his thinning hair and disappearing abs, but those kinds of things are simply not on my sexual radar anymore. Instead I find myself attracted to different things, like the little indent in his finger where his ring sits; his strong, worn hands that work so hard for us and the way he looks in those flimsy new reading glasses he finally had to buy to read the paper.
Honestly, I find watching him age not a turn-off, but an honor.
It's safe to say the marriage we first had is almost completely unrecognizable today, and I wouldn't have it back if I could. Of all the incarnations our marriage has had so far, I've gotta say, this one's my favorite. Is there a greater one to come? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I find myself looking forward to more new marriages in the future...all with the same man. 🖤
***I want to note that, when I talk about "trudging through the mud" and other tough times, they never involved me feeling physically or emotionally unsafe, demeaned, or like I had to compromise my own needs or integrity. Glennon Doyle once said "if a woman has a choice between saving her soul and saving her marriage, she needs to save her soul", and I agree.
Millions of people all over the United States are pumped for tomorrow's big Super Bowl game but I'm not one of them. I know, I know, I'm un-American and don't know how to have fun, blah, blah. When I was 20 I didn't want anyone to think that so I acted like I cared or half-understood the game, but I own it now. Because the only guy I care about impressing is my husband and I think he's on to me by now, given the fact that for the past ten Super Bowls I've only come into the room to hover over the snacks & watch the halftime show.
If you're one of the tens of people that are with me on this, read on--you're not alone! If you're one of the millions not with me it's okay, you can go get your snacks prepped for tomorrow (or continue to read and then comment about what a stick-in-the-mud I am).
It's not just the Super Bowl I don't get, it's our fascination with football in general. When you really break it down, it's just a bunch of large men chasing after a ball and knocking each other down to get it--and they get paid millions & millions of dollars to do this, while police officers who put their lives on the line for their jobs and teachers who educate the youth of our country are living paycheck to paycheck. It's just weird to me. I guess I just think to deeply about it and need to lighten up--it's just a game, right? I just think sometimes the things our country prioritizes are bit out of order.
So no, I'm not "anti-Super Bowl", we'll watch it & have some fun, but I won't be the one to ask what happened if you miss a part of the game. "They ran some more" will be my only response as I shovel down some more 5-layer dip on the couch and lament over how JLo is in better shape than me.
I think, unless you're a real die-hard fan of one of the teams, the big game is really just a chance for millions of people who are overworked and stressed out to have an excuse to let loose, eat some good snacks, have a few beers, and enjoy some good times with friends--and I'm always down for that.
These are 10 takeaways I’ve had over the years from working with kids and adults reflecting on their childhood. You may feel, like me, that so much of this goes without saying, but I’m continually reminded over the years that it doesn’t. Even with the experience and education I’ve had, parenting my own child is far more challenging than working with another’s. Working with kids, parenting...it’s hard, and not everyone had a great model for it. What I do believe is that it’s never too late to do better or begin again.
I’ve worked with kids for a long time—first as a character performer at Disney, then as a teacher, Guidance Counselor, & tutor.
I’ve worked with kids in the public setting and in private. I’ve worked with kids from every income bracket and family dynamic imaginable. I’ve worked with gifted students and students with disabilities. I even worked with big kids doing intake interviews for a drug & alcohol rehab center where I heard the intimate stories, often from childhood, that led them there.
And while I don’t by any means consider myself an expert (just come to my house any day during homework time with my 6 year-old), I do have some serious field knowledge—I’ve heard and seen the gamut when it comes to parent-child dynamics...the good, the bad, and everything in between.
I was grabbing a smoothie one morning when a familiar face walked into the store, a former coworker of mine from public school. We greeted each other and she asked where I was currently teaching. I told her I had recently taken a position at a private Montessori school. Her mouth formed into a pained expression and she leaned in close, “ooh, how is that? Ya know, working with those kinda kids?”
My heart started to race & the Mama Bear in me started to stir. Because I knew exactly what she meant by that question--I got different forms of it all the time. The implication behind the questions is usually that they are incapable of doing things on their own or are entitled.
I’d been through this before so I took a deep breath to tame the bear and calmly told her the truth. “Honestly... ‘those kids’ are no different than the kids I taught in public school. Some are entitled, others are not. Some are gifted, others have significant learning disabilities. Some come from wealthy families, some don’t. We have a mix of different kids, just like anywhere else.”
I shamelessly admit that I’m a goal-setting kinda chick--big on self-improvement and setting intentions so that I'm (hopefully) always continuing to grow. The way I figure, it's difficult to reach a new, exciting destination if you've given little to no thought where you’d like to end up.
I'm aware some find people like me annoying. Ya know, the camp that thinks resolutions are pointless because we humans are likely to fold after the shine of the new year dulls. While I can't deny that's it's just in my DNA to be a goal-getter, I do recognize that follow-through is likely the biggest stumbling block to accomplishing our dreams. This became even more evident to me when, at the turn of the new year, I looked back on my own goals over the past decade.
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Teacher-Mom life is rewarding but it's tough--we need fuel (& each other) to keep going. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul--uplifting & highly addictive ;) Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)