The trick is to not let one time slot carry into the next one. Let go of the emotions that may happen in one meeting and start fresh in the next. I write this as a reminder to myself before the day starts. Man, has it ever been emotional. I open myself up each day to the teachers in order to serve, in order to hopefully help lift the burden a little.
In order to reset, I plan to do some square breathing- 4, 4, 4, and 4 in between my time with each teacher.
For the first three time slots, I totally forgot to do my square breathing. I have however figured out a nice, tight structure for those 15 minutes- which really ends up being 10 minutes once teachers are released by the roving substitute, make it to their computer and log on. While I am waiting for the next teacher to appear on my Zoom link, I try to envision their walk to our meeting. Final calls from students, “Where are you going? What do we do?” As if their teacher is leaving for good. The restroom, that they pass because they are feeling late and do not want to lose time for more learning. The internet connection is not so good in their school building so they have to press against the outside wall where the windows are to hear and see me without delays.
I have figured out that really these time slots are teaching conferences. Like writing conferences and now I am loving the plan for this day because I love conferences. I love conferring. My structure goes like this: Connection with the person. Restating the focus they named for me in a previous email. Ask them to elaborate on the focus for a minute or so. Then deliver a mini-workshop with three to five practical tips that match their focus. End with a declaration of my admiration and love and a reminder to care for themselves because we need them.
That’s it- a little 5 part teacher conference structure that I do over and over again. 17 times. But, each one feels like the first one because each teacher is new. They deserve to feel new to me. They deserve to be heard as new. And, at the same time, I wish they knew that they are also so very much the same as their colleagues. Struggling with so many of the same things. Grieving in so many of the same ways. I knew I loved teachers before the pandemic started, now I am positive that I will love them forever and always.
Then the principal and the assistant principal get on at the end of the day to listen to how the day went. At first I think that this is a different kind of meeting with the people in charge and then what I realise is that this too… is a conference. People need conferences. All of them. All of us. We need connection. Back to my structure I go. I do not think I have any tips for them and then as I sit with what they want to focus on- how do we start to go forward again from here- I have a little workshop.
No one has answered that question before. How to go forward after Covid? But we get to. We get to make it up. Perhaps we redefine the world with our answer. There are so many things that need fixing and they are long overdue.
Do you have 15 minutes to get started?