The Best Worst Time

This is the best worst time of my life. We are living in a global pandemic. Everyone is feeling the impact of this historic time. The effects are felt wide, deep, and far, tentacles reaching into all aspects of our lives. Yet, if we shift our lens, there are always good things that come out of hard times.

Everywhere I look I see new ways to do things. There is inspiration around every corner. I see us doing more, with less….faster! I also see educators making decisions without any distractions. Tests and grades are gone. Our intentions are in the purest of forms and focused completely on what matters most, our students.

Nuggets of Inspiration

  • The teacher who identifies herself as ‘tech challenged’ creating lessons with Screencastify and facilitating Google Meet live lessons.
  • The teacher who has become the ‘book fairy’ and delivers books to her students’ doorsteps.
  • The assistant principal who has personally served every single free and reduced lunch.
  • The custodian who calls staff to see if he/she needs anything from the building, but is really just checking in on everyone.
  • The building staff that rotates delivering meals to a colleague who lost a loved one.
  • The principal who openly fears technology facilitating Zoom faculty meetings with the funniest virtual backgrounds.
  • A district of over 6,000 students that rallied together and rolled out Google Drive and Google Classroom in less than two weeks.
  • These are just a few pieces of inspiration I have experienced.
Imagine how many nuggets we would have if  each of us gathered all that inspired us!

One podcast that I learn from regularly is The Table Group with Patrick Lencioni. Their focus is on leadership, teamwork, and my personal favorite, organizational health. I am passionate about culture, relationships, and learning from each other. One episode that has really resonated with me, (and each of the seven times that I have listened to it) is episode 38: Why We Innovate in a Crisis. While The Table Group does not specifically focus on the field of education, there are so many key ideas that apply to all organizations. This podcast stretched my thinking. I began asking myself…

Why do we innovate more during a crisis?

Prior to the pandemic, change could be found in small and large ways. Change would occur with an individual educator shifting practices to match the needs of a student. Change would also occur with district-wide initiatives. Some types of change often included several committees, multiple meetings, data collection, surveys, research, and some sort of presentation. The process of change looked different for everyone. In most cases, educators had the ability to explore a new initiative at a flexible rate, ranging from early adopters to laggards. Educators could work through change in a way that felt most comfortable. It was an option to hunker down in a safe space for as short or long as anyone wanted to before embracing something new. Throughout these times of change, the question that typically guided educators and school districts was, ‘SHOULD we do this?’ Since the pandemic, the essential question has changed. Now we ask ourselves…

HOW do we do this?

The question was not ‘Should we implement distance learning?’ But rather, ‘How do we implement distance learning?’ We needed to quickly figure out how to stay connected to our students, families, and colleagues. We were forced to go all in. The comfort that lies within the walls of our schools and classrooms was not an option. In other words…we did not have a choice, we had to innovate.

This forced innovation has flattened walls and broken down silos. Collaboration is at its best! Our goals and vision are in sync. We are setting egos aside and offering empathy, grace, and patience to others which has allowed us to move past things quicker. This has created healthy conflict, which inevitably leads to more efficient decision-making. Our focus is directed towards taking action to support our students rather than getting lost in the process. We are leaning into trust and being vulnerable because #WeAreAllInThisTogether. As the reasons why we innovate during a crisis became clearer to me, a new question emerged…

How do we replicate this level of innovation after the crisis? 

I want to capture everything that helped the teacher who leaped into distance learning despite identifying herself as ‘tech challenged.’ I want to bottle up this mentality, this way of thinking, and cultivate it, then watch it grow. It doesn’t take a crisis to innovate, think creatively, or have healthy conflict. We need to remember all that we accomplished and all that we learned during this time. We need to nurture these authentic, sincere experiences so they will continue to thrive when the crisis is over. We need to take hold of the best parts of the worst time and imagine what we could be!