It is now approaching more than an entire year of students, staff, families and communities facing Covid-19 with an interruption/disruption to life/school. Soon it will be spring break, then summer and fall. Will we fall back into the uncertainty of knowing how our children will learn in the next school year?
Doors provide shelter and safety from the world. When the door is closed, we are nestled in our comfort to be ourselves and not worry about others. No one can see us, judge or make us feel unsure, or can they? The thoughts from the day are still with us even though the door is closed.
We can look through the window to see the outside world and imagine our lives differently. Our struggle is real, but no one can see, even though the window can show a perfect picture. It is when you look deeper you can find the scars that are always there.
When others ask us, “How are you?” Do you say, I am fine, oh just fine. Never better. When asking others how they are? Do you want an answer other than fine? If you are answering the question, do you ever think of saying something different? The following is one of my favorite songs! I believe it is so true! Many of us say we are fine when we are not. Those of us ask questions like, how are you as a passing gesture but never want to know and support.
Behind every door, there is a story. Teachers have been able to get past the doors in many homes of students across the nation during this pandemic and this is terrifying for many. Inside the doors are the homes where families built a foundation of safety and trust. Now people are coming into this space and it is not feeling comfortable for anyone. Maybe there is more inside?
Depression is on the rise, and many side effects are happening due to the pandemic, with students staying at home. A great deal of stress and anxiety are in homes. They look at the window with pain and think others are doing better, but in reality, we all feel the pandemic’s effects, maybe at different levels, but it is there.
Suppose you are not looking at addressing social-emotional, mental health, and well-being with an equity lens. Then nothing will change and more children will be lost. We cannot focus on academics alone. It is time to make those plans to formulate ways to address these issues for staff, students, families, and the community.
I can speak professionally from experience and as a certified trainer and coach. Also, I can speak personally as a survivor of trauma, living with life-long injuries and dealing with loss due to trauma. There are many steps you can take to support your staff, students, families, community and self. Let’s face it, most of the time we forget about the care for ourselves.
However, if we keep the school doors closed, addressing all of these needs will continue to grow deeper. The science we are to follow seems to be transparent in it’s indication of face-to-face instruction. The vaccines are being distributed and protocols are being followed.
As an educator, I had many students cross my path with troubles they needed to share. Struggles often more significant than I could tackle alone, but with their permission, we invited in others who could help. I have seen things I wish I could unsee, heard sounds deafening and felt the pain. Hiding behind doors are secrets and stories needing to be told. They look through the windows and look for rays of sunshine to melt the pain they feel. Just as this song echoes the needs of connection as we recover from all of this pain.
Open the doors to opportunity, hope, learning, collaboration, support, and belonging. Differences are our strength. When we can recognize others as the answer to our weaknesses, we can build a strong partnership to accomplish great things.
I have made some very difficult decisions in my life. After my near-death accident, I ignored doctors and went back to work as a middle school Principal. As I began, I knew it was not the right decision. My Assistant Principal and secretary took great care of me in helping to keep up with my duties. My medical team and I knew it did help to push me through my recovery because of my sense of purpose. But not long into it, I realized I was being compliant and not working at the level of standards I expected. I told my leaders to keep it quiet but I would leave the Principal position at the end of the year. They decided a different plan and I ended up moving to a central office position. It would not be a day to day stress-packed situation.
It worked out fine for me as I continued to heal and even made some improvements with some programming. This seemed to be a good fit for me. Then changes began to happen as my leaders changed. My duties began to increase; communication was not consistent and clear. My injuries began to impact me daily with intensity.
My injuries were not visible. No one could see the pain, the frustration, or notice what was happening I was hiding behind office doors. Then one day, my health reached a point when I would have to tell my Superintendent. I had failed a stress test, and more testing was needed. All of my medications were going to have to be stopped until they could find out what was going on. I returned to my office and gave her a call. I told her I had just failed a stress test and more testing was needed. She told me to come over to her office to talk about it. It took me five minutes to get there. She was gone. The secretary said she had to leave to pick up her son she had forgotten about, but did not say anything about me coming. It was never talked about again or followed up with.
You have staff members afraid to talk, ask or seek help. Please open the door, but most importantly, invite them in to talk. Take time with each one and truly listen to them to find out what is going on. It is so important to keep connected with all of your staff, students and community.
I have more to my story I will share as it did not end with just that no show or concern for a staff member’s well-being. I am just finishing up a fantastic book called Love’em or Lose’em by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. I think the rest of my story fits in well with this book.
I have one last song that fits with my theme of healing and overcoming. It is more than just overcoming traumatic events in life, hardships, stress or any challenges we face. It is in our power of belief, support systems we have in place and our strength in knowing we are enough with a purpose to achieve! No matter race, religion, gender or economic background, I believe in you!