We are starting our seventh week of social isolation and distance learning, and everyone is looking to see when it will end and “life will get back to normal.” Prognosticators are coming out of the woodwork but no one knows what our future will look like. The question is, how do you plan for an unknowable future?
A method I developed when my district added a wing to the high school including a new library may help you get through this with a minimum of fear and a readiness to take on the next stage. I call my method Microscoping, Periscoping, and Telescoping.
Microscoping is what you do first. You only focus on what is happening and possible in the here and now. It includes the things under your immediate control. You do whatever is next and it allows you to feel grounded in the moment. This can mean planning tomorrow’s lesson, creating a video to send to teachers or families, or doing laundry.
Telescoping is how to plan for the future. It’s done rarely, but is still important. This happens when you look down the road to see what’s ahead. It allows you to make your best estimate of what needs to get done in order for you to be back in your library working with students and teachers or what’s necessary to end the year online. It keeps you aware of the steps in between today and the future. At this point, you can’t spend too much time on Telescoping, but you can create lists and steps for what will most likely need to be done.
Periscoping is what keeps you from missing something important. In Periscoping you pop up and look around. What is the next step you can take in connection with something you identified when Telescoping? Is it coming up soon? Does something need to be altered or changed? Once you’ve taken a look at what’s happening around you, Periscoping helps you adjust your daily Microscoping to ensure you are staying on track.
We can never forget that the truth is we are still living through a crisis and don’t know how the ripple effects are going to play out. Becky Robinson says A Crisis Is Not a Marathon — But It Is a Call for Endurance. She acknowledges four ways this crisis is different.
- This crisis is not predictable– Unlike a marathon we are uncertain of the distance or the route we need to take. Different states will make different decisions and some are having a harder time than others.
- We did not train for this – As a profession, we are good at tech, but no one was ready for full-time distance learning, supporting both teachers and students and dealing with the trauma they (and we) are living with all while dealing with other things happening on a personal front. Many of you are doing double duty on distance learning as you help your children as well as support the needs of your school.
- We are isolated from our support crews – We miss the daily interactions with our students and teachers. Some of you didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye. You went home on Friday and were told over the weekend not to come back. And I’m sure many of you hoped for a return before the end of the school year. This separation is a huge challenge. I hope you’re finding ways to use your PLN’s Facebook groups as a source of information and strength as well as finding ways to stay connected with friends and family who can give you support and strength.
- We can’t see the finish line – This is much like the first on the list. It’s not only that we can’t see it, we have no idea of where it is. We can hope and plan, but not knowing when restrictions may ease up is a huge challenge.
These key differences add up to a great deal of stress – both personal and professional. Robinson’s recommendations on how to face this call for endurance are very similar to my approach. She cites Ryan Hall’s book Run the Mile You Are In reminding us that you cannot look to far ahead. If you see how far you have to go, or notice that you can’t see the finish line at all, you will want to give in. It’s not unlike trying to lose a lot of weight. If you focus on 50 lbs it can seem impossible. Instead, you must take it in small goals, daily challenges, and doable steps. It may not be a perfect solution, but nothing is.
This pandemic more like runnng a marathon on a treadmill. Lots of energy required but not getting anywhere – or so it seems. To get to the future, we can only manage the now. Keep a close focus on what we can do today, how we can be there for each other, and what we need personally so that when the finish line finally comes into focus, we’re as ready as possible.