Over the last few months I have worked on being patient. I’ve reminded myself that sitting back, assessing the situation, listening, learning and making a move only after an exhaustive cost/benefit analysis is the intelligent thing to do. I have written to you about the short sightedness of pivoting and the collective awaking that is emerging all while I have sat in a state of analysis. This is a state of knowing, accepting and fulling acknowledging what is true from my perspective, of course. I believe it is important, especially when we are in uncharted and uncertain territory that we responsibly use our voices to offer a diversity of perspectives with the objective of finding answers representative of every corner of our community. This way we acknowledge the power of the collective. We the people is a value, we the people is a representation of democracy, we the people is a founding principle of the United States of America. This is deep stuff, not some lame surface shit.
Suddenly, (at least it felt this way) “we” turned into a handful of school administrators. And so, my patience ended. One of my fundamental values was under attack and I was poked (it really felt more like being stabbed)!
It ended on July 8, 2020 at 4:32p.m. on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon as I listen to my children and their neighborhood friends run through our yard with water guns while a group of them attempted to overtake their creatively designed fort within the trees. I love the sound of their squeals and laughter. I love that they are together, creating games, building tree forts, imagining a battle against good and evil and experiencing community and friendship. Not even this joy could prevent me from getting out of my chair and screaming (Yes, several f bombs were dropped, I actually think it was a record number). Yup, I was up and activated for battle.
I felt personally attacked and convinced rational thought was under siege along with my value of the collective voice when the superintendent of schools decided it would be sound policy to tell the parents listening on the zoom call she was hosting they would have to figure out how to watch their children during school from home because students would most definitely need to be monitored should a school from home model of education be implemented for September. She was responding to a parent asking how parents who work are expected to manage school from home. The question was dismissed with a simple and arrogant, figure it out. She then followed up with, if we do some sort of hybrid model or if our children end up in school, we should start putting them in masks now for extended periods of time to get then used to being in a mask. Yes, you read this correctly I should get my children prepared for school by having them practice breathing in their own CO2 along with bacteria and viruses their bodies are trying to excrete. Brilliant!
All this crazy talk stirred me up so much I had to coach myself through all the emotions, especially the uncontrollable anger. While writing a letter to the superintendent of schools I realized she is reacting to the situation based on emotions- fear, stress, frustration rather than allowing herself the space to step back and process through the situation in a rational manner. Reacting based on emotions leads us to extreme and often shortsighted outcomes. I say bring in emotion, it demonstrates a high level of caring, but do not disregard process. I was left in complete disbelief and lost all confidence in the administrators in charge of providing my children with a public education. All parents of school age children are consumed by the question, how are we going to educate our learners. How are we going to keep them happy, engaged, laughing, full of desire to learn, socially and emotionally whole and void of anxiety, stress and fear?
Throughout the pandemic our leadership has been distracted by the physical health of citizens. Rightfully so, lots of souls have returned home and it is our job to sort through how to minimize death. So, we all became narrowly focused on physical health. Mental health issues were brushed aside as we told social beings to socially (I believe in physically distancing for safety) distance and isolate. Education disregarded as we panicked and turned to zoom and google classroom to replace learning within a physical community of peers. I sat and watched my socially anxious son become so comfortable with a screen in front of his face that he actually believed he was experiencing human interaction. The worst was he actually formed imaginary friendships with YouTubers. If I had a dollar for each time I pleaded with my son to get off of YouTube I’d be writing to you from a small villa in the Costa Rican rainforest right now.
So, what is the answer? I am so glad you asked. Know your values. Unless you value fear, remove it from your reality. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, write it, live it and be it because it is the only way to be certain we are adhering to our truth- know your values. Authenticity is not just a great hashtag, it allows us to live full, happy and successful lives. This applies to organizations and communities as much as it does to individuals.
The answer is, find your values, create policy based on those values and know that mistakes and learning are going to occur because all of this is new. Most days, especially more recently we are faced with making decisions that we did not think we would have to make. Yes, it can be overwhelming and stressful and yes, at the same time it can also be empowering. Bold actions bring us to our aliveness. You know, that tingling feeling you experience as every cell in your body is activated when you do something in total alignment with what gets you excited. For example, when you take the stage for the first time to address hundreds of people, land your dream job, have your proposal accepted, kiss your crush for the first time or overcome the crazy obstacle you thought you couldn’t, that tingling is your body reminding you it all matters. It can be anything with meaning, importance, value that calls out the tingles or butterflies. The most important thing is that it is activated, that it reminds us that living is real, that working for your desired outcome is worth going through the messiness, the failure, the heart attack.
There are no best practices to refer to, no scholarly research (at best lots of opinions), and no models or frameworks built to respond to a pandemic of this magnitude. The thought of charging into the unknown activates my aliveness. It calls out my creativity, my desire to live BECOME- bold, energized, compassionate, open-hearted, mindful, empowered. I wrote BECOME and teach workshops based on it with an elementary school educator, Lindsay Quezada because we know the framework of education is changing. We know that teaching this generation how to self-regulate, time and task manage, articulate their feelings, and self- advocate is how to develop self- aware and self- confident leaders ready to be the changemakers we need. We know that education and the future of the next generation of leaders is something that demands extra focus and this conversation needs to include all stakeholders. We, the parents deserve the respect of being included on decisions that are going to effect our families for years to come.
So, I have answers. Are the flawed? Most likely. Are they the only answers? Of course not. But this is how I model BECOME to my children. This is how I remove fear from their hearts, minds and bodies and replace it with love, empathy and connection. This is how I respond to being poked and this how I move out of analysis and into activation. I turn to my values, I lead with an open heart and I believe in the power of each and every voice.