It’s not ideal
Originally posted September, 2020
So without a doubt, it’s not ideal, seems to be the motto for education in 2020. It’s also the phrase that as a dean I’ve grown the most tired of hearing when talking with faculty. I often remind people after hearing the phrase that I know, it’s not ideal that we’re living in a pandemic, it’s not ideal that we’ve moved 95% of instruction to online. It’s not ideal to have to have closed campus the last five days in a row and seven out of the first 18 days of instruction, including tomorrow, due to unhealthy air quality from wildfire. It wasn’t ideal last March to suddenly have to shutdown campus and transition classes online in the span of a week. It wasn’t ideal to suspend hands-on Career Technical Education (CTE) classes and have to offer them over the summer, eventually online or for a few, or to still have some of them on hold. It wasn’t ideal, it’s not fair but unfortunately this is the way things are right now. Life in the middle of a global pandemic, surrounded by wildfires, with almost the entire college working from home certainly isn’t ideal for us, or our students.
And that is truly the thing we have to keep the focus on, our students. We got into this business primarily to serve students, and this business solely exists for the noble mission of helping students improve their lives. My start of the semester message to my division was focused on one word, grace. I asked my faculty, classified professional staff and managers to extend more grace than normal to others, and to themselves. Things are far from ideal right now, but in the middle of all of the madness and confusion we are still teaching a lot of lessons beyond the disciplines in our classrooms.
Let’s face it, even when it is ideal, the discipline subject area that we are teaching is not the most important thing students are learning from us as educators. Sure, it’s important, and particularly in hands-on CTE classrooms, or disciplines where classes build upon each other like math, it might even be very important. But the real focus of what we are doing, or in my opinion what we should be doing, is not primarily the discipline. I’ve always thought that our mission was broader than that, we’re helping students have better lives. That means we are teaching them responsibility, discipline, how to be good students and how to learn. Hopefully, we’re teaching them to critically analyze their world, to ask good questions and draw their own conclusions. Hopefully we’re teaching them to be good people and good professionals, primarily by example, but teaching nonetheless. Yes, we do this through the lens of our disciplines but these core life skills are absolutely crucial.
Now, when things are not ideal, I hope we are teaching them the importance of grace. That we make sure they are learning that even when things are tough, we still have responsibilities we have to meet and that there are consequences to not meeting them. I hope we are teaching them the skill of resilience. No matter what we are teaching them, I hope that we are doing it compassionately and with grace.
Resiliency is particularly important at this time. Our students and let’s face it, all of us, are facing unprecedented times in so many ways. We are all under a lot of extra pressures and stress. As educators, this is a critical time to show them that even in tough times you are professional, holding to your core values and moving forward. They are looking to us to see how to react to everything that’s coming at us all. Let’s show them that we can hold on to our positivity and professionalism. Part of this is also having personal resiliency and that’s being tested for all of us as well. Recently on my Ministry of Happiness blog, I published a piece on resiliency that offers some tips and resources for personal resiliency and I think there’s some good information there check it out.
Education is a noble profession and as practitioners in our field it’s really important to hold on to that nobility, even when, it’s not ideal. ~ Michael ‘Rev’ Kane