Nothing to go on
I don’t want to write this blog today. I don’t want to write about the head games that the provincial government is playing with the entire education community.
They don’t deserve the time and attention that they are getting. I’m a teacher, I want to be spending my time and attention on my students. I want to be preparing them for what school will be like in the fall. I want to be looking at ways to set up my classroom to maximize my student’s learning and their safety.
But, that’s pretty hard to do when I have nothing to go on.
After the most confusing and exhausting year that I’ve experienced in almost two decades of teaching, the only thing I’m being told so far about next year is that I will be working an extra week.
Ok, so if you are a teacher in Manitoba, you probably already know that the government has no respect for you, your family, the needs of your school or classroom.
But, don’t we have a union? Actually two unions. I know that they are there because I pay fees to them every year. I don’t have an option not to pay them, they take my money before I even get it. What are they doing with that money? (Other than redesigning their logo, printing a magazine no one wants and finding lots of photo ops for their president.) How are they supporting me, my students and the education system that we are tied to?
I don’t know, and I don’t really want to even think about it anymore. It’s hard to stay positive, focused and energized when you are continually being told in so many ways that you don’t matter. When the information that affects your day-to-day is being released to the media before it is being given to you. It’s hard when the bully is the province and you can’t reach the ‘kick me’ signs that they keep sticking to your back.
The government has not announced a plan for September. Parents, students, teachers, school support staff are all hanging in limbo waiting for any indication of what they need to do to prepare for the future.
The reality is that there is nothing I can do to help myself or my students prepare for next year. There is nothing I can do except to let it go.
I could let this drive me crazy, but I need to choose not to give up that power. It will make no difference to the government if I am angry, frustrated and discouraged.
It will make a big difference to me.
I have to somehow dig through the layers of hurt, betrayal and righteous indignation and find the strength to choose joy.
It's hard; really hard. I feel the tightness in my chest constrict when I think about letting it go. It feels like giving up. Everything inside me wants to do more, wants to be more. I want to hold on to being right and twist it until it becomes a tool that I can use to make a difference.
Unfortunately, being right isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if I think I’m right in wanting to be able to prepare myself, my students and my children for next year. It doesn’t matter if a million other people also think that I am right.
It matters that I am not making a difference by holding on to my righteousness. I am just making myself suffer.
What can I do instead?
This is the question I am literally asking myself right now. I’m tired of being angry. I need to wrench my perspective out of this quagmire and reach for something different.
I am grateful that I have a job that I enjoy, in a school that I like with admin that I find supportive and caring. I am grateful that I get to keep part of my class, carrying them forward to their next year, growing and deepening our connection and learning together. I’m grateful that I got to see more than half of my students three times this month (in person).
My chest is starting to unclench a little. It is amazing how gratitude can be a guiding light. It’s like it opens me up enough to start to see that there is a lot of joy I could be choosing. Instead of stewing about what I don’t have or know, I could be reminiscing about the great conversations we had in our book club at lunch, I could be laughing about the funny conversations I had with my student who came in this afternoon, or savouring the wonderful dinner that was waiting for me when I got home from work today.
I had a day filled with fun moments and meaningful connections. I have a life that is filled with amazing experiences and meaningful relationships. I don’t have to like what is happening in my work world, but I also don’t have to let it own me.
If I can't prepare myself, my students and my kids with facts and information, I can instead reassure us all with other things that maybe matter more.
The ideas that we will work together to figure out what school will look like in the fall. We’ve lived through some crazy times in the last few months which will ultimately make us more resilient. We will take it slow and focus on learning to work together, support each other and breathe a little more deeply.
I don’t think this roller coaster ride is over, but if we can choose joy during the quieter moments, if we can choose to be grateful for life's gifts, the ride might not seem so arduous. Most things in life are better if we can support each other and do them willingly, together.