I’ve been in a good space this past week. It seems like I can’t catch up on anything, but I know that my colleagues are in the same boat, so it makes me feel a little better knowing that all of us are treading the turbulent waters of an unknown day to day schedule to stay afloat. This month makes 10 months since our students have received total in-person learning. People continue to ask me, “When do you think we will get back to normal?” The straight-forward answer is….NEVER! We won’t. We’ll never be back to normal, and although some people see that as a negative, we continuously have to see the opportunities for growth during this time.
People who know me well know that I am reflective. As a child, I always enjoyed being around older people to listen to their conversations- not any of the stuff that my mom considered “grown folks’ business,” but I’m referring to those times when they spoke truth and wisdom that I knew would make sense to me as I aged. I can recall my elders speaking of valley times and how one’s view is distorted when he or she is “in the valley.” My young mind couldn’t make sense of this then because I’d been told that there was a lily in the valley that was shining brighter than a morning star. At least that’s what they taught us in Sunday school, and what they were discussing was a direct contrast to what my Sunday school teacher told me. But those things they discussed were filed away in my mental file cabinet, and that conversation emerged again this week as I thought of the times we are encountering. We are in the valley, and we have to put things into perspective to ensure we not only respond appropriately, but also improve our practice and profession through the lessons learned during these valley moments.
Last week, Ms. Douglas (@najadouglas5), Principal of my previous school, Carver Road Middle (@carverroadms), and I were able to interview Dwight Carter (@Dwight_Carter) about the challenges of leading schools during disruptive times. That was followed by a Twitter professional learning session the following week at the New Principals’ learning page (@NewPrincipals). One of the strategies Mr. Carter covered in surviving what is called “hyper-change” is the C.A.T. Strategy, which means the ability to Cope, Adjust, and Transform. There’s no particular time frame that one stays in any part of the framework, and it’s possible to go back through the framework multiple times. When we speak of coping, we think about dealing with the change that’s occurred and working through it. We know that major changes cause major growth, and we also know that different individuals cope differently. Adjust is just that- making the necessary adjustments during the situation to ensure goals can be achieved and barriers can be removed. Transform is making those shifts that may become the new normal within an organization to ensure success continues. So we have Cope, Adjust, and Transform.
In thinking of our conversation with Mr. Carter and the chat that followed, I try to correlate the interview and conversation amongst educators to the conversation my elders had years ago. My elders spoke of how one views life from the valley and how it can be distorted if one focuses on the now instead of the near. I can clearly remember my great-grandmother saying, “Life’s not about how perfect you can live it, but it’s about how you deal with the hard times. That’s when you start to realize who you really are as a person.” The same thing can be said about education- it’s not about how perfect you can make it but how you deal with the hard times. In essence, my great-grandmother essentially was saying the same thing that we discussed this past week. In dealing with anything that presents the possibility of a challenge, we have to cope with it and acknowledge that the issue is in our presence. The tripping part is- we CAN’T stay in a coping stage. At some point, we have to figure out what changes we need to make (adjust), and implement that into the course of our lives as a semi-permanent practice (transform). If we don’t do these things or if we don’t recognize them, our views will always be negative, and we’ll never make any progress. When we don’t make progress or transform our practices and procedures, our students are the beneficiaries of a sub-par education.
It’s evident that views from the valley can be tricky if we only look at those things that are around us. But it’s not completely terrible because maybe (just maybe) in looking around the valley we would see that lily I referenced earlier. If we are smart and cognizant of our impact and focused on living purposed lives, however, we will: look to the hills and out of the valley, be intentional in our views and ultimate goals, and be change agents for our personal pursuits or professional organizations. Views from the valley never go away and will always be present. But the way we use what we see to make a positive impact ultimately will determine if we experience success or the heavy burdens of heartbreak and defeat.
Be accountable. Be committed.