How to Make the Most of a Difficult Time

Teaching Amid COVID-19

I found the following poem deeply inspiring. Just reading it once gave me a whole new perspective on this time. Try reading it yourself and then I’ll tell you how it is impacting my time at home and my plans for my student’s learning.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath–the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now)

Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar

First, more trust, less anxiety

When I think of this time as a set apart time, my anxiety lessens and my trust grows.

I feel less anxious about how I am going to teach Practical Arts from my basement studio. I feel less anxious about whether or not my high school junior will be able to choose the “right” college now that we can’t visit. I worry less about my hubby getting the ick from one of his customers. Because when I think of this as a set apart time, all those things become less important than this amazing gift of space at the end of a dark winter.

When I feel less anxious my trust grows. Of course I don’t have to worry that my students will not be learning during this time. They are with their very first teachers, their parents, and those terrific people taught them so much before they ever got to my classroom. Maybe they won’t teach them what I would have taught them. They could learn so much more. Maybe they will learn to rest (rest and restlessness, I believe, all all learned behaviors.) Maybe they will learn how to do dishes or take care of the chickens while Mom is at work. Maybe they will declutter their closets and learn about letting go or sew up a seam on a favored shirt. Maybe they will learn Practical Arts that I just can’t teach effectively in a classroom of 26 people–like how to grocery shop on a budget when Dad isn’t working, how to tip the Grub Hub guy extra just because your family can help others, or how to wake up and be productive when you don’t have to go to school all on your own because you are excited about a project or plans for the day.

I also feel more trust for my own children’s decisions. It is less important (and maybe impossible) for my daughter to pick the “right” college. I remind myself that it is my job to make sure she has some options and that she be the kind of person that can be interested in the world and sure enough of herself to do her best in any situation. This gift of extra time to spend together before she goes out unto the world is just that, a gift!

My husband may get sick from a customer at work. He makes house calls to repair appliances. I can trust that he is doing all he can to keep from getting sick and to protect his customers from getting sick too. Of course he is doing that. But I also know that some of the people he meets were very isolated even before this time and a visit from my husband, who is highly skilled at conversation, may be just what people need to get them through—along with a refrigerator that cools and a washing machine that spins.

More trust less anxiety.

Making the Most of this Time

To make the most of this time of rest and withdrawal from others I can really focus on those forces that bring me to my best.

I decided to take an online class from Stanford University; a philosophy class called The Art of Living. That had me reading Plato this morning. I can authentically share with my students that I am a life long learner.

My gym is closed so I am learning how to walk on my daughter’s slack line. I am just at the stage of trying to stand up on it. I can authentically share with my studnets (and my kids can see from the kitchen window) that I don’t just ask them to do hard things. I ask myself to do hard things, too.

I can remind parents at our school that they were their child’s first teacher and so they have totally got this at-home schooling thing. I can even support them with non-traditional Practical Arts lessons. Real life skills: teach your kids how to sweep or wash dishes or any other responsibility. Cooking is a practical art. Folding clothes is handwork. Sitting under a tree is woodwork. Get out the play dough and sculpt birds and let those formative forces work when you take your kids on a bird watching trip around the block. Get you middle schooler to sand and refinish that table you’ve been meaning to get to or finally get the trim up around that door. These are arts. These are practical. I can bring that to families along with some blocks of fine motor skill development and will strengthening that I’ve planned. Throw in a few good stories. That is a good way to make the most of my time.

I can also stop typing this morning and finish quilting the pillows made from my children’s Christmas dresses that I started months ago! But I’ll be back to see what you are doing to make the most of your time. Leave a comment below, won’t you?

Photograph of post author and Waldorf Handwork Teacher

That’s what works for me! Barbara Albert, Practical Arts Teacher, Mountain Sage Community School, is sharing resources and organizing the Wool Wood Wax Workshop. Come check it out at https://woolwoodwax.org/

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