I’m struggling.

I have to get this off my chest, I have to clear some air, I need to admit to you all that I am struggling.

This is difficult for so many reasons, but I need to come clean.

I’m struggling.

It’s okay.

I’ll be okay.

But right now, I am not.

This necessary quarantine and social distancing is impacting me in ways I had not imagined two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, on Monday, March 9, 2020, we were still in school and ‘investigating’ options for remote learning that ‘could potentially be some time in our future.’ By that Friday, March 13, 2020, the decision to close and transition to remote learning was out of our hands. The governor of Virginia made the smart, informed, and necessary decision for us. By the hour, every day that week, the situation slowly but steadily escalated and it became more and more clear that ‘investigating’ was going to be a little more serious than that. We were prepared, every single educator and staff member, which is the good news, and a lot more than we can say for so many educators around the world, and even here in Virginia Beach, VA.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, just before we dismissed for the weekend, the news broke from our Governor and our school formally announced the transition plan for remote learning. It was surreal. We didn’t get to say the goodbye that we wanted. We didn’t realize in those fifteen minutes how much it would mean later, that we missed that opportunity.

Honestly, it felt like a scene from a movie where the main character has action all around while they are in the middle but not actively participating; a whirlwind.

I held it together, I even blogged, tweeted, Instagrammed, and Facebooked about taking it easy and just fostering relationships; not worrying about anything academic because it does not matter. I still hold to those truths I believe are foundational to education whether in person or remote — what I did not foresee was the toll it would take on me as a person, educator, mother, wife, scientist, friend, and explorer.

I’ve connected, I’ve fostered relationships, I’ve connected outside of my assigned synchronized time to foster said relationships and help my students feel safe, heard, and at ease with the current situation. I organized a remote happy hour for my colleagues to celebrate completing our first week, shot a few videos reading to students, challenging them in a scavenger hunt, playing a game, and sharing science experiments, the list goes on. I’m an energizer bunny, this is what I do, and I do it because it is important to those in my community and I enjoy it. Through all the smiles, laughs, entertainment, however, I have not been okay.

I’m overwhelmed, sad, lonely, feeling tremendous friend, wife, mother, scientist, author, teacher, social media influencer… guilt. When I am doing one thing, I feel guilty that I am not doing the other tasks and fulfilling those roles. My home is now my classroom, fieldwork station, family snuggle station, kitchen, sleeping quarters, and social media hub — there is no separation, no balance. I feel like I am going crazy, I cannot focus on completing tasks to the best of my abilities and I feel guilty no matter what I am doing. For example, I was outside on a walk with my children just listening to the birds that have flocked to our little corner of the world ans soaking Vitamin D from beautiful sun blasting us with 80-degree weather, while my mind continuously wavered between just enjoying this time with my children, and extreme guilt that I could be working on the book I am writing, I could be curating materials to help others tackle science in remote learning situations, I could be working on educational content for my field work, I could be conferencing with students about how they are handling their time at home, and working with teams of fifth graders as they are trying to finish up a big project we've been working on together, I could be taking a nap since I couldn’t sleep last night, I should get us all on bikes to get us more cardio while our usual physical activity time has also been disrupted, I could be making lunch for my husband who is also at home working…

I’m doing it all, thinking it all.

But am I not always doing and thinking all of these things? I totally am.

This feels so incredibly different somehow. I have underestimated the difference it makes to have physically different locations dedicated to each of these roles and tasks as well as commuting time in between to think, sort out, prioritize, and just figure it all out.

I’m not okay.

I’ve coined a term in the last few days, for myself:

Social Media Distancing

My solution, not perfect by any means, is to literally leave my phone in a completely different part of my home for at least an hour. While I do this, if my task at hand is on the computer, I do not allow myself to open any social media applications, not even email. My goal is to extend that to two hours of no phone or social media time, but I know it will not be continuous, at least for now. I am also working on scheduling my time better with hour segments dedicated to each task. Why an hour? No idea — it just makes sense to me and seems to work well. I am still trying to navigate the teaching and connecting with students piece. Some of them need to connect outside of the ‘classroom’, some of them need to just talk, just like I am now.

How do I make time for that, honor their needs, and also honor my own?

I’m still not okay, but it helps to get this out there.

Maybe you are struggling too.

Maybe you have better solutions and answers.

Maybe you just need permission to feel whatever you are feeling right now.

Maybe you are doing amazing, and I hope you are! If that’s you, I am so glad.

Hopefully many people are thriving, feeling great, and making some big things happen.

No matter how you feel, where you are, what you are up to — we are all #bettertogether so I hope that you share. Share successes, happiness, struggles, lessons learned….it doesn’t matter, I just hope you share!

We’re all in this together.

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Becky Schnekser

Becky Schnekser

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#ExpeditionSchnekser #OutdoorEdCollective #BoilingRiver #EducatorExplorer she/her #scitlap Founder @OutdoorEdColl National Geographic Grantee