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You’ll adapt and it will be fine.

I read statements similar to this, usually posted by healthcare workers, and feel frustrated.  To my family, friends, and all who work in healthcare, I thank you and appreciate all the suggested safety precautions you’re sharing with me! Both education and healthcare careers require big hearts and I know the intention is to try to alleviate educators’ fears, but when I read that I’ll adapt and it will be fine, it doesn’t make me feel reassured. Here’s why. 

Call it whatever you want–differentiation, monitoring and adjusting, using multiple modalities, teaching for multiple intelligences, providing options for students to show evidence of learning–it all means one thing to teachers: We must adapt our teaching to best match our individual students. And we do that.

We adapt the moment we see the happy-go-lucky student enter the building with slumped shoulders and no smile.  We adapt when the first snowflakes fall or the winter storm promising a snow day doesn’t live up to its potential.  We adapt on Halloween and when the moon is full. We adapt when the fire alarm screams and flashes requiring us to leave the building and then return to what we were doing. We adapt when a student misses school and comes back overwhelmed, unsure of where to even begin.  We adapt when we give the directions orally, written, chunked, with visuals to aid comprehension, and then we adapt again when we still see blank stares instead of students working. So, if teachers are masters at adapting, why am I irked when I hear or read, “You’ll adapt and everything will be fine?”

It took me a few days to have, what we in education call, “the lightbulb moment.”

As I wrote in my last post, last spring educators adapted along with everyone else, but I know of no one that was happy with the results. Teachers have, however, learned and will adapt–IF we are permitted. And here is where my frustration lies.

I am being told to adapt but not adapt. I have the ability to provide instruction safely using a variety of tools and techniques but am being told I’m not allowed to choose that option for myself.  In healthcare, there was a push to provide telemedicine as much as possible, even mental health services.  Why is education different?  Why am I being told I need to be with my students in my classroom when I can be with them, safely, through other means? Why am I being told, “We support you if you decide to take a leave of absence, retire (which I can’t), or quit?” Am I really being asked to choose between giving up a profession I love or performing my duties  in an unsafe environment, even when it doesn’t have to be that way? That’s exactly what I’m being asked to do, and that is why, even if I do adapt, I don’t believe it will be fine*. 

*Added 8/16/2020:  I’m still struggling to figure out what “fine” means to me.  Maybe it means “normal” and I know “normal” isn’t possible right now. Maybe it means everyone will be satisfied, but I know even prior to the pandemic, everyone wasn’t satisfied with my job performance (again see my previous post).  Maybe, because I don’t know how to define “fine,”  the statement, “everything will be fine” is so difficult for me to accept.

 (Please also read Stop Covid-19 Career Comparison Guilting. Nancy’s words express many of my thoughts related to my frustration.)