This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Michelle Dietrich
Was I deceived?
Or did a sable cloud
turn forth her silver lining on the night?*
The pace of the last few months has certainly been different. I am inherently a reflective, somewhat introverted person. Usually, being a principal does not provide me with much time for reflection, unless it is intentionally scheduled, and my introversion is saved for weekends. Of course, “The Pandemic” has changed things up a bit. Initially, there was a lot of organizing and meeting and planning as we adjusted to our temporary normal, but once May arrived, the pace slowed. I have had ample time to relish my introverted nature (and crave social interaction), and time to read and reflect.
Despite the inconveniences, I have found the current situation one where I have embraced silver linings.
With three teenagers, one in college, family meals were a rarity. So much so that we took the leaf out of the dining room table to make it fit a family of four, and most nights we would sit at the counter because it was down to three. Lately, we have had dinners for a family of five, and we have had many more lingering conversations.
Usually, during the school year, my only reading is done for professional development. In the past two months, I have read more for personal growth – books that I would have saved for summer.
I have a lovely patio, and each spring I plant flowers – struggling to find time to fit it in on the busy weekends. This year, I planted leisurely, knowing that if I did not finish today, I would find the time tomorrow. And, I have had time to sit on the patio, reading above mentioned books!
Silver linings. I have embraced them.
Recently, I heard a podcast, Us & Them: Same Pandemic, Unequal Education. The gist of the podcast is that for some students, the pandemic has created opportunities, while for others it has highlighted disadvantages. It led me to think about the core principles of Fluency: equity, compassion, authenticity, and agency; and consider how my experience has been one of privilege. From my vantage point, the inconveniences have been minor, and I can see the blessings. From my place of abundance, I can live compassionately and donate to food pantries; I can live my authentic life, making choices about how I spend my days.
I wonder, though, what about those who are not in my position? What about families who struggle with food insecurity, lack of transportation, job loss, addiction, or even domestic abuse? Can they see silver linings? I can speculate; I can hope; but I won’t know for sure.
What I do know is this: As educators, we have been shown a glimpse into the lives of our students that we have never had before. We have been more in touch with parents and have heard their concerns. We have struggled alongside them. Through this experience, we have hopefully gotten a better sense of what matters most when it comes to education.
The principles of Fluency matter. Equity – are my students who struggle getting what they need from me right now? What about my students who are working above grade level? How am I giving each of them what they need to be successful? Compassion – are you okay? Do you have enough food? Did you get enough sleep? Is anything going on that I can help you with? Authenticity – how can I design learning that meets standards and engages students in these circumstances? Can I allow this student to complete a different task because I know he/she is in a different place? Agency – how do you work best? Look at this choice board and determine how you would like to demonstrate mastery.
When we return to school in the fall (she writes optimistically!), we will be different. We will have been provided with a deeper sense of what matters. We will have learned.
I did not err, there does a sable cloud,
turn out her silver lining on the night
and casts a gleam over this tufted grove.*
*Comus, John Milton, 1893
Kay, T., 2020. Same Pandemic, Unequal Education. [podcast] Us & Them. Available at: <https://beta.prx.org/stories/323090> [Accessed 7 June 2020].
Michelle Dietrich graduated from Bethany College in 1994 with a major in Elementary Education and a specialization in Math 5-8. Her graduate work includes a Masters in Educational Technology, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Wheeling Jesuit University. Michelle has served as a Director of Religious Education, has taught Title I Math, K-5 and was a fifth grade teacher before serving as Assistant Principal at Warwood School. She is currently serving as the Principal at Steenrod Elementary School where she has been since 2015. Michelle is involved in her church and in the life of her children. In her free time, you’ll find her nose in a book. Michelle currently is a member of Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University).