Uncharted Waters (Final Reflection Fall 2020)

Dark sunset over water

Just over 10 months ago, I accepted a new position.

Just over 9 months ago, the world, and with it the educational world that I had previously known, completely shifted.

6 months and 3 weeks ago, I started a new position.

Just about 4 months ago, I began the fall semester, teaching courses I’ve never taught before, in a new university, using a new LMS, with new administrative responsibilities, in a very different educational world, with a child starting online bilingual kindergarten in a language that neither her father nor I know, with another child starting 9th grade, with everyone at home.

It has without a question been the hardest semester of my life.

I can only completely feel the weight of this as I look back.

During this semester, my primary goal was to make it to the end, to survive.

I kept focused on what was directly ahead of me at all times, moment by moment, facing directly ahead and moving forward.

I hoped desperately that my family would be alright, that my students would learn something, that I could contribute to my program, and to the many individuals and communities that I hold dear.

But honestly, I just wanted to survive.

To do this, I had to draw from everything I’ve developed over my lifetime that has helped me to survive: hard work, years of classroom teaching, my love for teaching and learning, an adeptness with technology, my partner who loves me wholeheartedly and supports everything I do, my community who reminds me to care for myself, my refusal to do less than I’m able in any circumstance, therapy, tears, and incredible focus.

I made it. I survived. My family did well, all things considered. My students reported learning.

But surviving has come at such a cost.

It is my first real moment to sit down and reflect on it all, the victory and the cost.

The Victory

There is always beauty in the growth of my students. They grew so much and brought so much to our classes and our community. I got to bring in friends and educators from across the country to speak to these talented future teachers. I got to teach subject specific methods in my three credential areas which was a joy.

My program co-constructed a beautiful collective vision. It can become our North Star, and move us forward towards transformation. I got to co-facilitate beautiful and powerful professional learning workshops with an incredibly talented colleague and friend (shout out to the brilliance of Dr. Kristal Andrews). I got to work alongside some incredible educators and future educators. I got to work with leadership that sees transformation as the goal of our work. We are building with the help and support of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. I’m making fewer mistakes.

While I try to limit the pictures of my (home) family I post here, I am so proud and grateful for them. They have somehow thrived in this time, of all times. My 5-year old has learned so much Korean in the last four months. My 14-year old and I have made a tradition of Tuesday-Thursday hot beverage runs and he has largely self-managed himself to an earned 4.0 in the first semester. My husband still loves me despite taking on a large portion of the childrearing responsibilities while working full time from home.

My communities have been a constant encouragement. Whether they are colleagues from my current or previous institution, whether they are friends and/or friends turned family, whether they are church family, social media connections, they have helped me, encouraged me, walked alongside me, loved me, empathized with me. I couldn’t have made it without you.

I am so grateful.

The Cost

I am so exhausted. I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically drained. I was listening to the brilliant Season 2 Episode 7 of the Black Gaze Podcast and the concept of taking on too much as violence against the self hit me hard.

To survive, I have begun in the last few weeks to read books for my survival: Healing Resistance, Emergent Strategy and How We Show Up and I have fought for my survival through therapy (individual and collective) and the message from God and the universe have been consistent. I cannot keep contributing from emptiness. If I am to engage in non-violence, I cannot continue engaging in violence against myself, giving away my time, energy, heart and life to institutions and systems without consideration for myself and my community.

There is a lot of unlearning, relearning and learning to do if I want to move past survival into a life where I am thriving.

These are perhaps the most terrifying uncharted waters.

But I keep being led here.

I keep finding myself washed up on shores and looking out at the horizon, but wandering the same ways to find something better.

I am not where I was 10 months ago, or 9 months ago, or 6 months ago, or 4 months ago. I am not where I was yesterday. I am where I am, and choosing where to go next.

There is power in choosing anew every day.

Tonight is the winter solstice.

Tomorrow the days get longer; there is a bit more light.

May it guide my choices.

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