Choosing a learning path during COVID-19 is not an easy task.

As a little girl, I always knew I wanted to be an educator. I grew up “playing school” with my younger brother and neighbor. I admired and respected my teachers and never thought about a different career path. I took a brief detour in my career when I moved from teaching kids to adults. However, I stayed in the field of education. I remained a lifelong learner as I pushed myself to learn more and grow with my global colleagues. I fell in love with the 4C’s (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication) and how to model these skills with students.

Essentially, I love all aspects of education… seeing the excitement in a student’s eye, inspiring students to set and reach their goals, pushing students to find and use their gifts to make this world a better place, etc. The one area I have never been fond of is politics. I misguidedly went into education thinking it was the one place that was void of politics. WOW…was I ever misguided. Over the years, I learned that education is one of the most politically driven fields. I have come to realize that this probably won’t change in my lifetime, but for the sake of my children (and any children or grandchildren they may have) I hope that politicians will start to realize that education should not be played like a game of chess or Russian roulette.

Going into this next year of education, I am flooded with a variety of emotions. On the one hand, as an educator, I miss seeing my student’s smiling faces, celebrating their successes and giving them encouragement. Sure, all of these things can be done remotely, but it’s not the same. We don’t parent our children from a couch because it’s not as effective as being hands-on and present. The same holds true for education. In a perfect world, PK-12 students would work with educators face-to-face and be surrounded by other kids. However, how we previously taught face-to-face will not be the same as what we do in this upcoming year. For those that are able to teach face-to-face there are new guidelines that must be followed. We aren’t sure how this will play out for ourselves, colleagues, students and parents because we are all in unchartered territory.

The added layer is that many educators are also parents. Therefore, we are not only thinking about what is best for ourselves but our children as well. This is where my stress has boiled over. My children are eager to go back to face-to-face learning (which is available for them) and it is their desire to do so. However, as a parent, I struggle with how much weight I give to their desire to return to school (as they are still in elementary school). Do they really understand the gravity of their decision? Do they really understand that some of what they loved about face-to-face learning will be unavailable? As a parent, I have spent my life trying to protect them at all costs. They have been quarantining since the spring and had only limited interaction with extended family. What if something were to happen to them (or myself), would I be able to forgive myself for putting them in that position? For me, this last question is the one that I struggle with the most. The fear is crippling and uncomfortable!

When fear arrives, the natural reaction is to run in the other direction. However, as I began to research this topic, I realized a few important factors. First fear is NOT a sign of weakness. As 21st Century learners we are critical thinkers. Therefore, fear should be thought of as a sign that we are critically thinking about our decisions. Secondly, if fear is not addressed it can turn into chronic stress and anxiety which could lead to physical and/or mental health issues. For this reason, now more than ever we must give voice to our fears. We should lean on our friends, family and community for support. Additionally, when others reach out for support, we must be willing to listen and not try to offer “the” solution. Everyone’s circumstance and comfort level with COVID-19 is different. What works for one educator, student or parent may not be the right solution for another. For that reason, I have decided that I will tread lightly as I go into this year. I am acknowledging that I am not 100% certain with my choice and my family’s choice, but if I (or they) decide to change their mind, the door will always be open and accepting of that decision. 

During this upcoming year, I hope you’ll join me and other educators in the PLP Community as we offer support, knowledge and a listening ear within a judgement free zone! There isn’t any cost, just lots of love.

Interested in having Christen as a coach next year? She and many other experienced connected educators will be standing by to support you in the Connected Learner Experience. Check it out.

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Christen Dodd

Christen is a Connected Learning Specialist for PLP. After earning her MEd. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Virginia, she began her career as a K-5 Computer Resource Teacher. She enjoyed collaborating with staff and creating technology lessons that engaged students, but caught “the bug” for presenting to educators on a national level. For eleven years, Christen trained educators both face-to-face and virtually with Verizon Thinkfinity. She also served as their Distance Learning Coordinator and Vice President of Professional Development. Christen has enjoyed working with Powerful Learning Practice since 2011 and continuing her work with educators, parents and students alike. Currently, she is also an instructional technology specialist at her children's JK-8 Catholic school.

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