August 13, 2020
How is it Thursday?! If I'm being honest, I need you to know that I've lost a bit of my mojo this week. Without students, my fuel and energy levels seem to burn at different strengths. Typically, when things feel hard or overwhelming, I turn to your children to center me and give me the perfect dose of reality to continue on with the work. This new norm takes a considerable amount of stamina and endurance to make all the pieces fit together. We're doing our best, but I have to wonder if it's good enough.
Take yesterday for example. It's only 10am. I've already let a teacher down because I forgot to share some important information with her. Those moments of disappointment are hard to stomach. A feeling of failure washes over me but I stand strong knowing my mistake wasn't intentional and she understands the power of forgiveness. Our need for flawless communication as a staff is at an all time high. However, the sustainability of it all is in question. Thankfully, I find solace in reminding myself of the relationships I've formed. They are built on trust, and support, and a true respect for the work we share.
Text messages sit at 52, unread emails for the day at 119. I'm in an IEP being fully present, taking notes for the team, and ignoring the "to do" list to my right. Although my door is closed with a sign that reads "Zoom in session", faces of Team Penn continue to pop in and out of the glass window, hoping to catch me for a moment. My thoughts are drawn to, "Are they okay? Is a student in need? Did I forget to be somewhere?" But all the while, I take deep breaths and remind myself of the present moment. Last year's theme of "Be Present" was the pre-game to this year's theme: Hold on to Hope.
And then text #53 comes in. I don't know why it seems more important than the 52 that came before it, but I click it. Almost immediately I am filled with regret because the 8 faces staring at me via Zoom might see I'm distracted. And they might see my heart sink a little. It starts with, "Hey there. We're thinking that ______ would benefit from a meeting with you. Zoom or in person. We think she needs some authority to get her to realize she needs to spend real time on, and take pride in her work. Please let me know a good time." I take a deep breath, re-focus myself back into the IEP, quietly stress about how I will re-prioritize the afternoon activities. I cancel our staff meetings.
The IEP concludes. I just love that family. I miss their kids dearly. I scramble to take a bite of some random snacks on my table, scan my email for any huge emergencies, and then I respond to text #53 with a phone call. The phone call turns into a Zoom. Me. The sweetest student who has also lost her mojo. And the mom. She's a gem. I go at it from a few angles: connection, encouragement, motivation, understanding, expectation setting, disappointment, empathy, and back to encouragement. I listen to my sweet Penn Panther make excuses for not completing assignments. I see that she misses recess and her teacher. I watch her face. And I see the toll of Distance Learning. I see it in her and I see it in her mom. I can't even hug them. Ugh. I ignore the email notification that catches my eye. Subject line: "can we come back to school?"
The Zoom call ends, I text the mom immediately apologizing that I used the word "suck" about 5 times with her daughter. How unprofessional of me. She didn't mind. In the 60 seconds that follow, I realize...my mojo is back. Just like that. One conversation with one student and her mom. And I'm back. In my prime. I conclude that my happy place is not found in solely celebrating successes. My happy place comes from working through problems with students, families, and staff while constantly re-prioritizing all of it.
And that's how the days go. They are filled with needs, and struggles, some successes, a little fun, but mostly, needs. And with that, let this be a reminder to reach out when you need it. After all, you might just be the best part of my day.
YES, we know this is a lot. At times it may be overwhelming. Likely frustrating. And while we know this isn't what any of you signed up for, you are our only hope. Read that again....YOU. ARE. OUR. ONLY. HOPE.
It's probably easy to take the approach of, "My child will catch up when we're back in school." Newsflash: this IS school. What our 4th - 6th grade teachers need from you is for you to be actively looking in Google Classroom to see what's going on. Some of your children think it's sneaky to "turn in" an assignment by submitting a blank paper, others are simply doing the bare minimum, and many deserve excessive amounts of praise for jobs well done! Regardless of how your child is doing, they need you. 6th grade families: you should be logging into Aeries often to look at your child's grades. Even before COVID, this was an expectation for 6th grade families and it's the same system you'll use all the way through high school.
This video shows you how to navigate around Google Classroom with your child. We truly wish we could take this off your plate for you but we can't. We need your partnership now, more than ever and we recognize this can feel really hard.
A million thanks in advance for being an extension of our team in an effort to support your children!
~Mrs. Fadeji on behalf of the 4th - 6th grade team
Penn Teacher Spotlights! Did you miss the PCS family webinars?
District staff & teachers presented webinars to families last week as a way to provide more insight into what Distance Learning will look like this year. Since Distance Learning will be very different this year, we would like to encourage all families who were unable to attend to view the webinars this week. Below are the recordings of the webinars:
Weekly Message from Mrs. Fadeji
Around the World Wednesday Episode #2
Do you need a buddy or do you want to be a buddy to a new family in need of some guidance?
You are officially invited to a virtual lunchtime chat with Mrs. Fadeji and members of Team Penn!
This is a time for us to be available to listen and hear how we can support you. Our discussion will focus on navigating some of the challenges that come with Distance Learning. Bring your questions, your innovative ideas, and help us determine how we can best support your kids during Distance Learning. Please note: if you have a very specific concern or question, you can always contact us personally to support you. Our forum is intended to cover topics that will benefit as many families as possible.
Sign up via the Google forms below!