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Becoming Comfortable Thinking Uncomfortably

by Lori Gracey
uncomfortably

I’ve read a lot of blogs lately that have tried to predict when we will “get back to normal.” The authors are all well-intentioned individuals who are trying to provide some assurance that the world will eventually go back as it was once we overcome the coronavirus and we can all continue doing whatever we were doing before. And while that may be true, I hope that it’s not.

Now, don’t grab your pitchforks and come after me until I have a chance to explain. I, too, will be thrilled to welcome the day when no one else gets sick from COVID-19, when we can feel free to shake hands or hug or kiss a friend, when we can burn our masks and let down our guards. But when that joyful day does arrive, I hope that we don’t abandon some of the amazing things that we have been forced to embrace since March 2020 and that we don’t “go back to the way things were” completely.

Where We Uncomfortably Are Right Now

Right now, teachers are absolutely exhausted, both physically and emotionally, from the constantly growing workload from teaching today. Yes, parents have had to become part-time teachers while still doing their full-time jobs. Yes, many students have struggled to learn in a situation that they were not familiar with and for which they did not have the bandwidth, equipment, resources, or skills. All of these things and so many more have contributed to the uncomfortable feeling we are all experiencing.

We feel overwhelmed. We feel depressed and anxious. We spend a lot of time worrying and thinking about the problems we are all facing. It’s a very uncomfortable time.

What Should We Keep from the COVID-19 Time?

But that very same uncomfortable feeling has helped us to craft some amazing solutions and new things to try. Since schools had to move to remote learning at the drop of a virus, we have all had to shift our “normal” way of doing things and try new things, thus causing many of us to be uncomfortable. And while that is never a pleasant feeling, it is one that can cause tremendous personal growth. It is the things we have been forced to learn during COVID-19 that we absolutely must keep once this whole mess is over.

Educators have learned that technology, when used appropriately, can give back a little time to a busy teacher. It can offer students choice and voice in the classroom, regardless of where that class is located. It can empower individuals to take on leadership roles they may not have ever tried before. And it can help those in need to learn and retain more.

Families have learned to come together, to do more things together, to spend more true quality time together. Teachers who were afraid of technology have had to embrace virtual teaching while still building those critical relationships with students. And educators who were already using technology to teach with have had the chance to improve their ed tech skills. Administrators who were focused on performance reviews and test scores have had to shift their focus slightly to be more on supporting their students and teachers through the difficult time. We have all had to grow. Those uncomfortable feelings have, over time, become more comfortable for us as we learned new ways of doing things and opened our minds to new possibilities, and I think that’s a good thing.

And, perhaps most importantly, we have all learned to be more grateful. Before the coronavirus, many of us took our amazing lives for granted. Going out to a meal with friends, visiting with older relatives, holding hands with small children, all of those were just things that we did. But now we know how very precious those experiences are. Taking off on a vacation, visiting a sick friend in the hospital or nursing home, hugging a child as they left our classroom, all of these are essential parts of our lives that we must never again take for granted.

Other challenges will come along in our lives, although hopefully nothing as devastating as this has been. If we are more comfortable thinking uncomfortably, then the next disaster will not have such a strong negative influence on us and we will become, once again, better at finding and implementing new solutions and even more grateful for all that we have been blessed with.

I wish each of you the very best Thanksgiving holiday with time to truly be thankful for all that we have and to be hopeful for future time together.

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