Standing in the Present #sol20

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Standing in the Present #sol20

May 12, 2020

My former principal and I used to have a running joke about the present being a gift and tomorrow being a mystery.  You know it, Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.  I’m a person that lingers in the present.  I don’t look back very often, if at all.  Heck,  I rarely even make a recipe again.  … and perhaps…. I don’t look forward either.  It’s difficult to say that aloud.

I’m a problem solver, a rally-er, a ‘we’ve got this’ sort of person.  Seems apt for a coach, doesn’t it?  Or does it?

We’ve got to have our feet in two boats as my gram used to say.  We have to be keeping things moving and working in today, but we have to be problem solving for the next situations as well.   I have a confession to make… let me tell you first how I got here. 

Yesterday we were asked to come back to school.  Classroom teachers were asked to pack up student materials to be returned and do whatever close down they could do within a two hour window.  I didn’t want to go.  I’ve been to campus twice since the quarantine, each time as we started a new phase in learning.  I’m adjusting to my supplies at home and if I’m honest, being at school makes me sad… really, really sad.  It’s quiet and lonely.  We don’t talk to each other.  Instead of being a lively stop along someone’s route, the literacy center feels overfull and empty at the same time.  However,  after a mostly sleepless night and with a new district-wide literacy project on the horizon,  I packed up my empty book bags and headed off to school.  The secretary and assistant principal were there to great me, masks and gloves on the table mandatory.  That seemed fine and expected.  When I entered the literacy center, I could see that our custodians had already cleaned this room.  I imagine they weren’t expecting me to return.  The moveable furniture was jumbled all over the place as were all the things that had been stuffed under tables and in spare corners.  As I think back on it in the clear light of today,  it was as if they had moved themselves around.  I stood there honestly not knowing what to do.  I was uncomfortable in my mask and gloves, my sweater felt too hot and for long minutes I just stood in place taking in everything that seemed both frozen in time and completely foreign.  Finally,  I began organizing some books I knew I wanted to take home for phase 3 and beyond,  emptying projects from the bins on my desk, long forgotten in our new reality.  In hindsight, maybe if I had played some music or a podcast, called someone to chat on the phone,  I wouldn’t have be overcome by the mounting sadness and helplessness I felt. When someone brought books back to the literacy center, instead of being welcoming and flexible,  I was startled and overwhelmed.  The thought of sharing that small space with my grief, exposure to others, and more and more books that were not in their right places completely and utterly overwhelmed me.  That is so hard to admit.  Thankfully,  calmer colleagues helped me problem solve.  Something else stuck with me… When the principal outlined his solution, I must have looked… doubtful, still uncomfortable?  He asked, Do you want me to give you a different answer?

Yes, I said.

Yes!  I want a different solution that involves happy chat without worry.  A plateful of cookies and a pot of coffee for the work.  Cheerful plans for the future.  Yes was all I said.  

I left school yesterday near tears and completely churned up.  Grieving again for what isn’t and what might never be.  Lucy Calkins’ words from Thursday played in my head. The future of workshop and partnerships, learning and collaboration is uncertain.  All we know is that it may not look like what we had a mere nine weeks ago for a long time, if ever.  I came home, ate a slice of cold pizza, read a book for an hour, and took a nap.

Now I know something I didn’t know about myself.  I am not as up for change or bumps in the road as I hoped.  The future scares me a little.  Much like the very white 1.5 inches of growth on my hair, my vulnerability is showing and I don’t like that very much.

Writing it down helps.

A fresh start, a new day, a realization, all promote stepping forward.  Here we go!

12 thoughts on “Standing in the Present #sol20

  1. Susan, thank you for sharing your vulnerability. THAT for certain is part of being a coach. All the feelings that surround going back into empty school spaces (and the feelings are many) can lurk quietly and suddenly pounce…or I suppose loom menacingly. I think I know how I’ll react when I return tomorrow to pack up my space for the summer (and…) but standing in the space may prove bigger than I imagine. Thanks for suggesting music!

    Also, as coaches, we often work to stand aside from the emotion of a situation long enough to guide others toward solutions…but in this case, the very uncertainty seems to preclude us contributing (yet) to solutions. I’m guessing that seemingly unending uncertainty is a difficult place for many of us to stand in.

    Literacy learning is where our hearts live. When it’s house is shut down, it makes sense that we grieve.

  2. I’m teary. I just keep moving. I haven’t considered just how different the future might be. Sure, my mind has gone there but I’ve been stuck in the rallying, rooting, and envisioning.

  3. I can relate to this on so many levels! Thank you, Susan. This section floored me:
    “Now I know something I didn’t know about myself. I am not as up for change or bumps in the road as I hoped. The future scares me a little. Much like the very white 1.5 inches of growth on my hair, my vulnerability is showing and I don’t like that very much.“ Yes, I was excited and thrilled for the challenge to and yes, I find myself on the verge of tears often. This post means a great deal to me.

  4. Oh, I so feel for you in this post. I almost wish I could be there, as an outsider, to help you organize if not thoughts, things to take home for “the next round.” This phrase struck me: “I was uncomfortable in my mask and gloves, my sweater felt too hot and for long minutes I just stood in place taking in everything that seemed both frozen in time and completely foreign.” I imagine that is how I would feel. In addition, your analogy to your gray hair has me thinking – I also have a 1.5 inch of gray showing. I have verbalized how I wish I would make the decision to go gray, but fear I am not ready. Not ready for change or for the next stage of life, unknown and perhaps unwanted.

  5. I think it’s good you wrote your way through this, Susan. Writing it down surely helps with the grieving of what’s been lost this year for ourselves and for the children.

  6. > The future scares me a little. <

    Yup, not a fan of daydreaming about the future right now. I wake up at 1:00 AM pretty much nightly and am up a couple of hours because my mind won't shut down. School, my students, my friends and family, the time capsule that is my classroom. All of it weighs heavily.

    Thank you for writing this today and just helping me know, it's not just me. 🙂

  7. You have put into words what I know SO many of us are feeling. I’m usually someone who is looking ahead…speeding ahead, excited about what’s to come, but not now. I don’t want to look. I’m afraid. It makes me sad. I’m glad that writing this down was helpful. Reading it was helpful too. Thank you.

  8. I feel this! I almost never think about the past, and I’m not much of a future forecaster either. So I just haven’t really thought about what fall looks like. What the next couple of years look like. But it’s heartbreaking to imagine what workshop looks like with distance. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t really know how to teach middle or high school effectively without presence, without being in the room with kids. We’re all going to have to figure something out. But it’s painful to think about it.

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