Last week, I met with a group of parents for Back to School Night for the first time in ten years. That’s because, two days before school started, I learned that I would be a distance learning teacher for a group of remote first graders. No problem, I thought. I’m not afraid of teaching.
Teaching through a screen is not the same as teaching kids in person. Never have I taught with every parent, of every student, listening in. Never before have I had to lean on families so heavily to be my eyes when I’m in a breakout room, to make sure kids have the materials they need, to console in moments of stress or sadness.
At Back to School Night, I told the parents that they were doing a good job…parenting is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is hard. “Your kids are happy and clearly loved. We have so much to learn from kids right now. They are so resilient.”
I keep looking to my own kids. They get to go to school twice each week. Those are their happiest days. The other three days, the travel to my mom’s house with their Chrome Books, carefully planned and packaged materials from their teachers, and a starred and highlighted schedule prepared by me at 6am, as I sip my coffee and preview each of their Google Classrooms-the best I can do to support them for their “at home” school days. Each day, when I get home, they’re eager to show me the work that they did, report on the highlights of the day and the bumps in the road. They’re making the best of this new way of doing school.
Before kids came to school this fall, I wrote a slice about my youngest daughter Rose and her determination to ride her bike around our block. I vowed to look back on that moment and change my mindset from “I have to” to “I get to.” I’ll admit, I should have gone back to that post more often over the last few weeks. I’ve lost sight of that positive mindset.
Last weekend, while Adi was at her ballet class, I took a walk around the dance studio with my other daughters, Wren and Rose. We passed by a tag sale, where I spotted a shiny purple bike, the perfect size for Adi-who happened to be in need of a bigger bike. After we picked Adi up from her class, we drove by the tag sale, checked the price, and purchased a new bike for Adi.
After changing out of her tutu, she was ready for a ride around the block to test out her new wheels. Of course, her sisters tagged along-Wren on her scooter and Rose on her trusty trike. As we neared the half way point, we also encountered the only incline on our familiar route. I watched Adi lift out of her seat, trying to leverage her body weight to get herself up the hill. The pedals didn’t budge. She bounced slightly, determined to make the bike go…at the same time that Rose began to slip backwards down the hill, also unable to power herself up. I sped up just in time to place one hand on each girls’ back and give them just enough of a push that they were once again on their way. I watched Adi, again lift off her her bike seat, and ride with the ease and joy that I can only describe as a neighborhood kid, zooming around a familiar neighborhood.
Both my girls faced the challenge of the hill head on, using everything they knew and trying with all their might to overcome the obstacle. The obstacle proved to be more than they could handle, so they accepted help, and then, were once again on their way.
Today, I attended the TCRWP Saturday Reunion, virtually. Usually, this is a day I look forward to-an opportunity to visit the city and refill my professional bucket. This morning, I wasn’t sure if I could handle any new content, especially in the midst of making pancakes, doing laundry, and entertaining children.
But I tuned in, hoping to catch a workshop or two. Instead, I stayed for the entire reunion-my kids listening in, commenting, and participating where they could. During the closing keynote, Lucy Calkins spoke right to my soul.
How can you help a child hold onto a star when the world is so dark?
It’s easier when we show up for each other.
It’s tempting not to show up.
In times of loss, we need to show up. We don’t have to be perfect,
As teachers, we take a sacred vow…to believe, hope and trust.
It is our lot to keep giving and keep showing up.
She reaffirmed and put into words (with the beautiful storytelling I always look forward to from Lucy) the lesson I had already learned from my own kids…
We are on a hill- using all we know to get to the top, or at the very least, keep moving. We will slip back…and that’s ok. There will be people along the way to put a hand on our backs and help us keep going.
We just have to keep showing up.