There are Positive possibilities…

There is possibility right in front of us if we but take the time to notice, to allow ourselves to slow down to see what might be, what we might become. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday

Sometimes it is hard to see the positive that is around us. It is difficult to believe that something positive will happen, especially if you are in the midst of a negative situation. People telling you that there will be positive doesn’t help right now. Because right now is difficult, overwhelming, and negative. 

As someone who has struggled in this exact situation many times, it is hard to see the positive. Some days, just getting up is a positive never mind anything else. But, there is positive. It is there. It took me a long time to get to that point that I could slow down to see it. I didn’t do it on my own either. I needed help from family and friends. There were times that the blackness was overwhelming and it was difficult to get up. 

I’d like to tell you that you just need to do these 7 things and you’ll see a huge difference or read these 10 books and your life will be better or begin these 5 habits to change your mindset but…. sorry, that isn’t how it works. For me it involved many different factors such as seeing a therapist, being honest with my doctor to discuss possibilities, being honest with myself about how bad things were, developing certain habits involving exercise, meditation, and diet. It involved listening to my family when they told me I needed to get help because I wasn’t fun to live with anymore. 

It took time to see the possibilities. They were there all the time but I couldn’t see them. There were too many other things overshadowing them, overwhelming me, and keeping me from being able to see them for myself. The decisions we make today are the foundation for what will happen tomorrow. When we cannot see the positive, our decisions often keep us from making progress and seeing the possibilities of anything better. 

Changing Education and Learning

Schools and universities have been rushing to move teaching and classes online. In some cases, this has resulted in teachers trying to recreate the classroom in an online environment. There are several rather humorous posts of this sort of thing. However, there are some less than humorous posts that have become an unending stream of discussion on social media. Endless lists of Do’s and Don’ts for being online, teachers requiring students to be logged in for the slotted time to monitor them, teachers locking screens, and taking away marks for not following the rules. For me, it is in these types of situations where people are not seeing the possibilities for what might be, for innovation, for doing things differently … for change. Instead, it appears to be a reaction to shifting into a situation in which people are unsure, uncomfortable, uncertain, and frankly, fearful. Which, when you think of the situation, is understandable. 

I’ve seen plenty of reactions to what some people are doing and, at first, I had a similar reaction. However, as I took some time to reflect on what was happening, I realized that this was somewhat similar to my own struggles, how not being able to see any possibilities, of feeling lost and alone despite all the help that surrounded me. I wasn’t interested in what others had to offer because I was struggling with so much self-doubt, loss, hurt, anger, and helplessness. I can see that now but, in those moments, I couldn’t. 

So as teachers are being thrust into this unknown, I can only imagine how difficult it must be, especially if they struggle with technology or feel they have to meet certain requirements around attendance, assignments, assessment, and accountability. For those of us who have been working with technology and have been involved in online learning and teaching, we are eager for the possibilities. We can see that there is so much that can be done. We can see that in order to make changes, we need to slow down, reprioritize what is important in learning. Many of us are embracing what might be possible. 

But that isn’t everyone. In fact, that isn’t even close to the majority. There is so much uncertainty in this time. The unknown, as I’ve explored before, creates all sorts of anxiety and fear for people. This is a time to understand that people are reacting and doing the best that they can given their backgrounds and their understanding. For many of them, the loss of routine, structure, and surroundings of school are making this very difficult. I know that many teachers have expressed how hard it is being away from their students and the things they are doing to connect with them because, like it or not, it is part of the identity of being a teacher, of being someone in a caring profession. For teachers, this separation has all kinds of emotions attached to it that are difficult to separate out because of who they are and what they do. So during this time, many teachers are searching for a connection to what they have lost, to the order and structure that has been taken away from them. They are grieving

Seeing Possibilities
Seeing possibilities for what might be different is possible at this time but not everyone will be at the same point. For those of us who have been working, connecting and building relationships online, it’s important to remember that we are in an extremely unique situation. As Dean Shareski says in his recent blog post This is the Time:

Online learning, while in existence for decades, is a brand new practice for the majority of classroom teachers. I would venture to guess that far fewer than half of all teachers have dabbled in creating any kind of online or even blended learning environment. There are many unique affordances with learning online but indeed we will recognize the downsides.

There are many things that we will need to explore and discuss as this shift takes place. There are incredible possibilities but there are also many issues which we will have to overcome such as supporting and helping those teachers who are in the darkness, struggling with the immense change that is occurring, feeling lonely, and no longer feeling confident in what they are doing. Teachers who have lost a feeling of security and familiarity with what they are doing and have been doing for many years. There is shock and in some cases, disbelief of what is happening. To expect that people are going to make this shift, or even talk about the future, is overlooking what is happening to many of teachers in this situation. 

Although this is an opportunity for change and innovation at this time, to march forward without stopping to pause, to allow others to adjust and to help them work through their emotions and feelings, risks the possibility of creating a situation in which the disruption and negative will overshadow any of the positive. 

Yes, there are positive possibilities but we first need to start with the human side of what is happening. If education is really about these relationships, then let’s not forget that any positive possibilities must begin with supporting others, especially teachers who are struggling, where they are. 

If the positive possibilities are going to lead to a change in assessment, assignment, accessibility, accountability, and actions, it will need to support teachers as they navigate through this newness. 

There abound positive possibilities all around us. In order to take the time to notice, we need to be ready to notice, to be able to slow down and see what is possible and be ready to accept that we, too, are in a process of becoming. 

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