Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In the last 6 weeks, I have done more sitting, well, let’s just say I never thought of myself as running a race. A race is one that requires a special mindset, a preparation of body and brain. Not sitting in a chair all day.
Yet, the job I do requires intense preparation. In fact over the last 6 weeks it has required an entirely new perspective on progress. The finish line used to be visible with these things called standards and tests. Now it is visible in new ways – mastery assessments. The race winner is now determined by all different finish lines. There is no set pace anymore, and certainly no set finish line. It is an individual approach that never before has been possible in the herd mentality of education. Okay, it was possible, but few did it. If you haven’t guessed, I am a teacher. I have the opportunity every day to teach middle school students.
Before Coronavirus, we went to school each weekday to learn, socialize, and participate in life lessons as a community. Now, we sit on zoom sessions, teaching from afar, listening from our homes, waiting to see what the race will bring.
Before, the race ending was evident. For me, it ended with 8th grade graduation, moving on ceremonies for each level of learner. Other students the race ends with passing grades, award ceremonies, and graduations. Now it ends with none of that.
Persevering through the race is no longer about physical sweat and determination. It is all about beating mental obstacles that no one ever expected a teenager to maneuver.
In some ways, this new race will create amazing young people. Young people who can tread water in the roughest of oceans. For generations, they will say to others, “That’s nothing, I went to school during the Coronavirus Pandemic.” They will teach their own children that nothing can stop them from learning, if they just persevere through the race.
Many will say this is a complete disaster that will have devastating effects on our children for generations to come.
I don’t see it that way. I see it as a new race that our children are leading the way through. Some of them are working part time jobs to support their families. Some of them are determined to find new opportunities which all lead to the finish line. Each finish line looks very different. Depending on the student’s home life, their perseverance through the race, and most importantly, their relationship with their “coach.”
Yes, some are struggling. There are always some who struggle through the race, but I have heard many teachers offering help to these students. Students that never would have had the teacher’s attention before. Students who now have the direct one-on-one contact from someone to help them get through this race. All because the finish line has changed. We are now seeing the students as individuals. Each individual requiring something a little different.
This new finish line has teachers and administration scrambling. Even those schools who thought they were prepared for this new race are finding things to be more difficult than they ever imagined.
No one counted on the hours that teachers would spend re-tweaking their lessons. No one saw the hours of one-on-one time that teachers would be inspired to utilize. No one saw the exhaustion that teachers would face each day because they sit in front of a computer or talk via Google chats or use technology they never thought they would EVER in a million years need to use. All of these new obstacles in the race don’t need physical stamina, but they do require intense brain power to jump through new hoops.
Teachers, don’t stop now. I know you are tired. I know you are mentally exhausted. I know you feel helpless to reach out to kids that seem impossible to contact. It only takes one child to change the race. Take it one child at a time.
The race for teachers, just like their students, looks very different. Their finish line doesn’t exist anymore. In fact, teachers know deep in their hearts that they need to prepare for a very different finish than even their kids realize. That may seem to scary and daunting, but I think in the long run of this, the race always needed to change.