Guest post by Debbie Tannenbaum, @TannenbaumTech
This morning, I sat down and reread by Thanksgiving post- Right on Target with Tech that I wrote over a year ago, In many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago, In this post, I reflected on the four accomplishments that I had contributed to in my relatively new school. I shared how I was finally feeling at home and how proud I was of how my colleagues and I had worked together to improve instruction and set high expectations for all of our students.
A year later, many of these accomplishments still ring true. My colleagues have been relentless in so much new learning. They have been flexible, trying new things and taking risks they would have never imagined before March 2020. During the 2020-2021 school year, we once again got over 99% of our digital permission slips in due to a collective school effort. We are actively using our Staff Info Center to share information with each other. Plus, I have been able to work with my colleagues to promote student centered tools that focus on communication such as Pear Deck and Flipgrid in our socially distanced reality.
Yes, I am grateful for all of these things- I love my job and working alongside so many amazing educators. But this year, my reflections have been more focused inwards- 2020 has not been an easy year. When I selected CHALLENGE as my #oneword2020, I had no idea how that word would truly encapsulate my year, both with personal and professional challenge. I have tried to look at these challenges as opportunities to grow, to learn, to be better. Like most of us, sometimes, I succeed at this, other times, not so much.
One of my biggest challenges since last Thanksgiving has been my self care. Taking care of myself has always been a struggle for me- as a mom, as a wife, as a teacher. As a result, I added a self care challenge goal to my 2020 goals- commit to eating healthy and get regular exercise. I did well from November through February with this in mind.. Then March came and everything shut down. From March until July, I worked from home supporting teachers and students with technology integration.. When I used to always been on the move, I found myself sitting more and more. Looking at a screen all day is exhausting and work always seemed just a short walk down the hall. It definitely became more of a struggle to keep this front and center with so many other things front and center.
From July to mid September, that routine changed again as I began working full time back in the building since I was needed to help distribute laptops, manage technology issues and train staff virtually. It was probably one of the busiest times ever- long days led to utter exhaustion at night. I was definitely not at my best and was definitely worn down. Then, one Monday at work, my husband called- he had tested positive for COVID19 and I needed to be tested. Suddenly, our world was turned upside down as I found out I had it too. We were so upset- we had done everything right and had no idea how it had happened.. Overall, we were lucky- we were both extremely tired and suffered from headaches- but we did not have any severe respiratory problems nor require measures beyond home care.
Recovering from being sick has been its own battle. Although our symptoms were mild, we are both still struggling with getting back to normal. Our stamina isn’t the same as it was yet and we definitely developed some eating habits while sick that need to be curtailed now. Looking at this challenge as an opportunity has been a mindset shift. I am so grateful to be well and to have had mild symptoms overall, but so many people have not been as lucky as we were and that is so horrendously sad.. I am fully aware that I have the opportunity to try again- recommit to better eating habits, start exercising regularly slowly- take things one step at a time.
As 2020 began, I also set some professional goals for myself. I wanted to blog for another year- check. In addition, I wanted to take risks: work on writing a book and apply to become a Google Certified Innovator. I haven’t accomplished either of these goals yet, but took risks and worked on both of them. My third goal was applying more to present at local, state and national conferences. I have also met this goal but it definitely requires some mindset shifts as COVID 19 shut everything down. Prior to March, I applied to present at many conferences and was accepted to present at them to my delight. But before I knew it, these conferences were either cancelled or became virtual.
I found myself needing to pivot in my professional goals. Having never given virtual trainings before, it felt really strange and foreign at first to give professional development like this. But slowly but surely, this has become the new norm for me. Since last Thanksgiving, I have presented at nine conferences, some local and some national based. In just a few weeks, I will add another conference to this list when I present at VSTE 2020, my state technology conference. I am so proud of how far I have come in this area,
Despite all of these challenges, as we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, I am so grateful for all the blessings in my life. My son is about to finish his first semester of college and I am so happy to have him back home, even for a short while. My daughter is having a great virtual ninth grade year and keeping busy with drama and dance classes and working as an aide for fourth graders one day a week.. My relationships with my stepchildren are stronger than ever. My husband and I are fortunate to have jobs that allow us to work virtually when needed and we are both on the mend. Yes, I would love to gather for a family Thanksgiving, but after this past year, safety and health comes first.
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and stay safe and well too. What struggles have you reframed this yet? Have you had any professional pivots? Maybe reframing your challenges and pivots will help you reflect like it did for me. After all in times like these where there is so much that we can’t control, the only thing we can control is our reactions. Hoping you find opportunities out of your challenges this holiday season.