The Educator’s Ironman

June 15th, 2020

I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine this is what mile 26 must feel like: sheer exhaustion and an overwhelming sense of pride that you made it … even if “making it” means getting a crappy time and stumbling over the finish line. Regardless, we did it. Make no mistake about it. Even if it was clunky and painful and at many times even ineffective, we did it … together. And this thing we did? It will be in the history books someday.

They say that collective pain actually acts as a kind of social glue that can foster cohesion and solidarity. It’s one of the reasons military recruits go through boot camp–not merely to get in shape, but to bond with those who share the agony of the experience, so much so that they will put their lives on the line for one another.

At the expense of sounding dramatic, this year’s MHS staff will forever be bonded by a shared trauma. Wherever we fall as individuals in our experience of this moment in history, we went through (and are still going though) a global pandemic, a looming economic crisis to match that of the Great Depression, polarizing political upheaval, and a worldwide movement to combat racial injustice that leaves all the systems in which we operate being rethought and reworked with little to no funding. You know what? This isn’t a marathon. This is more of an Ironman.

Seemingly trivial among these other crises is the sheer fact that many of life’s rhythms that are unique only to educators have come to a jarring stop. FALL: school starts, new pencils, Friday night lights, homecoming WINTER: semester two, new teachers, new classes, fresh start, squeaking sneakers on the courts SPRING: reflection, finals, races in the sun, award ceremonies, celebrations SUMMER: rest and rejuvenation WASH. RINSE. REPEAT.

If you’re like me your life has swayed to this rhythm since you were in kindergarten. For me, that means 35 years of this expected routine. And all of a sudden it all came to a sudden halt. It’s thrown me. Big time.

But being thrown isn’t all bad. Some of you have seen the faded tattoo on my right forearm (the one of the angel wings and the number 12 in them) and know the story about how my daughter almost died when she was three. The twelve symbolizes the room she was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (12), the amount of days she was in a coma and we waited to find out if she was going to live (12) and the year (2012). Some of you also know my husband’s and my response now to just about anything stressful in an effort to maintain perspective: “It’s not Flesh Eating Bacteria.” I bring this up because nearly losing my child was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. The worst for obvious reasons. The best because through it I was given the gift of perspective and gratitude.

On some of my hardest days this spring I pause and imagine a future MHS where our problems are that of the typical variety–where global pandemics are replaced by that random kid who doesn’t quite make it to the bathroom before he loses his lunch and where economic crises in which people are losing their livelihoods are replaced by the biggest frustration being having to move or share classrooms or those dang administrators/teachers/students/parents/fill-in-the-blank who just don’t get it. I imagine when we are in those moments, we will pass each other in the hall, wink, and give a knowing smile that only we–who have been through this together–will understand to mean “It’s not a global pandemic.” Perspective. Gratitude. I have been so honored to be a part of this year–this moment in history–with all of you.

We just finished the swim. I’m not going to lie. There’s still a bike race and a marathon ahead. Shake yourself off. Take a few deep breaths. Enjoy your summer. And I’ll see you back on the course soon. Just imagine the strength, the sense of pride and the feeling of community we will have when we get through this together.

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