My father is one of the most hard-working people I know. Growing up, I watched him tackle every conceivable challenge. He’s repaired each section of our house at least once, mentored several church groups, and can be quite the chef when he needs to be. No matter the project, he always works steadily and without complaint until the task is finished. This is the complete opposite of my approach, which involves getting frustrated, breaking things, and then sheepishly asking for help.
I can still remember one instance years ago when my father had me weed the garden with him. As a doughy, videogame-obsessed tween, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to spend my Saturday afternoon rooting around on my knees for prickleweed. I made sure to signal my displeasure in the usual way: scowling, stomping, doing a shoddy job. Yet, when he saw my tantrum, my father simply said, “Son, you need to remember the Big A.”
“What’s the Big A?” I asked.
Facing the Challenge
I’ve been thinking about his words a lot these past few months. 2020 has certainly been one of the most chaotic, stressful, and challenging school years in known history. Most educators spent their summer frantically compiling resources and learning to use new technology. Now that school has started again, many more are grappling with the realities of distance learning. And that’s just in the classroom.
If you’re like me:
- You’re worried about the pandemic.
- Trying to process the social unrest.
- Exhausted with the contentious election.
- Just trying to deal with everyday life.
You’ve probably wanted to break a few things yourself and faking that smile every day is starting to wear you down. As someone who can absolutely relate, I’d encourage you to remember the Big A.
How are You Responding?
Our students will be watching us closely this year and it’s important that our attitudes set a positive example. While we can’t change the pandemic, we can change our response to it. This doesn’t mean we plaster on a smile and suppress our emotions. Rather, it means we stay honest, persevere, and model healthy social-emotional learning. We can teach our students to meet life’s challenges with dignity and grit by doing so in our classrooms (be they virtual or otherwise).
Help your students by discussing how they feel and show them that you empathize. Acknowledge the reality of the situation and the legitimacy of their emotions, but also do what you can to help them feel secure. Take a moment to count your blessings together and be transparent with them about your own worries. Above all, remember the Big A.
Sometimes, a healthy attitude is all we need to meet the challenges of a new day.