Phase 3 Words

Educator 1: It did not feel normal to do this work in this time. Doing something with little kids that is really meaningful and forward moving and rich takes a lot of energy in the best of times. But then doing it in this environment and trying to like turn the energy on and turn the energy off and have an experience that is worthwhile, and then go home and re-enter a world in which so much is so fraught was really like emotionally draining and, I think in some ways, emotionally damaging.

Educator 2: One boy was describing Mother’s Day. His parents and grandparents created a plan where they would meet at a basketball court and sit on different sides of the court. And then they put presents like in the line in between, and they would like go and pick up the present and go back and open it up. You know, just very sweet. But the boy said “It was so painful, I wish I never did it.” I was like “What do you mean?” But what he was saying [was] it was so hard to be around his grandparents and not hug them that he almost didn’t want to see them because he just couldn’t–mhmm, exactly. And then they’re 64 of them having different stories like that. So that’s why when you first asked about like my emotional reserve I was, “What is that?”

Educator 1: I think a piece of the demand on educators that’s so hard right now is there’s just not enough good science yet to believe we can still be moving in the general population in the same way that people who are working from home are, for example. And so a lot of us are really, you know, taking our work as pretty high-risk work. So it’s like very isolating personally to do this work that is very connected socially in the in the classroom. Obviously, personal isolation and grief are not like a great combination.

Educator 1: You know, I see that in my teachers. I see how tired people are. I can see the different ways that grief shows up for different people. You know, I’m a person who gets really irritable and cranky when I’m deeply, deeply sad. We have teachers who just get sort of classically depressed. We have teachers who just sort of shut down and don’t want to connect in the same ways that they might otherwise. And so I see those things. And I know that they’re there, and we talk about them in terms of like, “What do you need and take care of yourself?” And like, “Take your days off.”

Educator 1: What does self care even look like right now? Who knows? Is it a myth? Who knows? But do the things that make you feel good and listen to your needs and let’s try together, as much as we can, to build something that’s going to work for us and sustain us through this time.

Educator 2: Well, I think the teachers are doing a really great job of prioritizing people’s emotional health and mental health and recognizing that if somebody can’t show up the way that you want them to that day that we’re there to be, like, compassionate towards them. That it’s not all about, like, “Well, did you get the spreadsheet?” You know, it’s not that kind of emphasis. Of course, we’re doing that and we’re doing quite a lot of work together, but really, at the end of the day, it’s like, “How are you really doing?” and encouraging each other to take time. And like, “Well, don’t worry about that,” “How can I best support you?”, saying things like that. Like, “What do you need right now, like, how do you feel about this decision? Do you feel like your voice is being heard in this? How should we approach it?” You know, it’s just very collaborative, and with the underlying goal of being there for each other and being supportive of each other.

Educator 3: There are days–I’m not someone who likes to cry, and I don’t like how it feels. There have been moments where I’ve just like, “I think I’m gonna cry now. And this is okay. Just a little, it doesn’t have to be much.” And then just reaching out, sort of knowing who I can reach out to. And saying, “Here’s a moment that I realized, I can’t handle this anymore, just by myself.”

Educator 3: So a lot of not wanting to burden anybody, just because we’re all so stretched.

Educator 3: I guess I’m very fortunate in that most of the people that I’m working with right now are people that I care really deeply for and [care] about and they [about] me. So to be able to really express that care, like “How are you doing, you know–like really?” and then being asked that myself.

Educator 3: I’m learning how to work with people in a way that I’ve never had to work before–and these are extreme circumstances, so learning to let go of, “there’s a right way and a wrong way, that it’s for me to fix the problem.” To let go and just say, “You know what, this is an unfolding process that I’m one of many people involved in.”

Educator 4: There was a lot of just like groups of people that sprung up after the pandemic, mutual aid groups and neighbor support groups and food security groups. We’re starting to explore some collaborations with them: doing kids programming, and also doing family programming. Developing this network of people that then are available as volunteers to help with the like really intensive days of farming. The idea of growing this network of community that can support each other in creative and innovative ways during this time.

Educator 4: I’ve been thinking a lot about, you know, childcare programs. One of the big childcare programs in our area that has served really vulnerable families just closed because they don’t have any more money. And COVID has been really hard for childcare programs: you have to take less kids, because you need to do smaller groups, you have to pay staff more hours, because they have to clean things every second of every day. So I’m interested in exploring the idea of: how could you support people that work in childcare in other ways? Maybe one of the ways is that you could develop this network with local farms where people can get food, and that is part of their their work. And then, in turn, there’s this community network that can support farmers. They’re really just like, like seeds of ideas.

Educator 4: I guess one of the things that I have just continued to really wish for, or that has been really striking about this whole time period to me, is just the way in which it seems like creativity and change just is so difficult. Why is this bureaucracy so hard to move? What could make that move? It really does just bring up questions of like, what education is all about.

Educator 5: The pandemic made me know that I can definitely lead a school. But it also crystallized for me–certainly what the advantages are and how we can sort of move in and create abolition within schools and all that. But it also crystallized for me how formidable the institution of education is in this country. And that leaves me with a profound sense of life disappointment, because I’ve always said that we can change anything in the world in a classroom. I believe no classroom–or I did. We can change anything, I’d say, “Curriculum changes everything.”

Educator 5: I just don’t know that people are gonna listen. I’m sick of having to prove what I know, empirically even, personally, is the right way to do stuff in schools.

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