Voice 1 of the five voices in my head right now

Since the pandemic hit March of 2020, there have been all sorts of pivots*– the lockdown phase where we were discouraged from zoom calls or all class anything, pivoting to choice boards, journals, and conferences.  We started the fall in online mode, watching each school board meeting with curiosity and apprehension.  Then we went back to the building in January with students arriving in March, almost a year to the day from exiting the building, teaching in hybrid, juggling online and in person.  All of us were packing up our rooms, too; the new high school was being built and our section was going to be torn down. 

This fall?  I’ll say more later, but it is new, new, new, new.  The point:  that’s a lot of change amidst the change of a pandemic that posed/ still poses stress in every arena of our lives.  In these transitions, there are five voices in my head I collected from January of last year to October of this year.  They ping around quite a bit. 

*And yes, as I type the word “pivot” and use the forms of “pivoting”, I recall two things: the post-it note of what I never want to hear again that I created last year and how one department mate texted a group every time we heard the word pivot in our PD.  That would have been one heck of a drinking game. 

“I thought you’d be better than this”

An unkind voice in power over me said that to me, and wow.  It hit hard.  That line and a few other lines from that voice make me pull up and reflect.  The difficulty in sorting out this voice is a recognition I wasn’t at my best last year.  I wasn’t.  And also who would think I would be or should be?  While a move to journaling helped capture context to other lines that linger in my head, “I thought you’d be better” was the first noteworthy parry.  The context I see– asking teachers to come into a building, to trust a committee’s safety decisions when the how and the why was not conveyed, to relay without question demands teachers were held to while all were concurrently juggling the emotional realities of building a new school– how could anyone, particularly a partner in leadership, expect anyone to be at their best?   

It takes energy as an educator to field sincere and robust student questions that get to the how and why of learning.  It is easier to ask for and create a culture of compliance.  The same is said for leadership. This “I thought you’d be better than this” wanted compliance.  Quiet.  Wanted me to simply sell the department on what we had no agency or voice in. 

When I am centered enough to emotionally process all that those in leadership juggle themselves, I know they have been required to expend so much energy that grace must be given.  I also believe that this fraught system creates a scenario where admin increasingly seek teacher compliance.  The role I have held as a leader was to bring forth thoughts and ideas from my department to a leadership table; now it is to make decisions teachers had no agency over palatable.  It is to be quiet when teachers are in a no-win situation.  Yeah, I am not going to be good with that.  I am not going to be good with that even when I can, in grace, see that the power over me is also in a no-win situation. 

If I picked a self-portrait of me last spring, it would be this: 

We thought we’d catch the rabbits coming under the hole in our fence– but this is what we caught, poor opossum.  How to get an angry opossum out of a trap?  Not as easy as all the rabbits that came before.  

The school situation last spring? What we thought and what we got and what continues?  No one could be their best. 


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