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Staying the course

How to be prudent as we move from response to recovery.

5 min read


Staying the course


The last few months have been a flurry of pandemic response activity. A new administration at the federal level, changes at the state and local realm and the rollout of vaccines to eligible groups across the country — and it has all happened within a few short months. While it is too early to tell whether these changes will lead to a quicker recovery from the pandemic, often when many changes happen in a short period of time, we can be apt to change our methods, let our guard down, or make assumptions that are simply too soon to make.

I consider myself pragmatic — the glass isn’t half filled or half empty, it is simply filled to where it is — but I do have hope for what the future holds. At the same time, I know that the only way that hope will be fulfilled is if I (and more broadly, we) stay the course in our work with students, staff and communities as we move from response to recovery. With that as a guide, here are four ways I plan to stay the course until evidence and facts say I should do otherwise.

Focus on “we” — not just “me”

With vaccination rollouts beginning across the country, some of us may soon (or may already) be vaccinated. Since the timeline for this process will be long, and since different states and locations are proceeding with this process differently, while it is singularly important for any one of us to be vaccinated, it is much more important for our collective to do so. While vaccinating must be an individual decision, this process is only ever effective when a sizable group engages in their use. So, regardless of when I am fully vaccinated, my practices must remain until a large enough group of our communities and constituents are inoculated as well. This is clearly a “We Before Me” situation.

Encourage patience and model willpower

We have all experienced “Zoom Fatigue”, the term given to our over-reliance (due to necessity) on video conferencing tools to connect with others and accomplish our work. Over-reliance on any mode of communication in our lives makes us tired and ready for a change. The same holds true for all elements of life during the pandemic: reduction in allowable experiences makes us more strongly desire to engage in more than we probably should. Despite all this, the only way we can support those we serve is by being patient with the situation (and with ourselves) and modeling the wonderful aspects of willpower to help others see that we can do this, and we can do this together.

Say “no” (and in some cases “yes”)

One of the valuable lessons we have all experienced over the course of the last (almost) year is the importance of providing direction in times of crisis. It is important to say “I don’t know”, of course, when we don’t know something. And, we need to balance that with an appropriate amount of “yes” and “no” when we know enough to say so. The actual direction is sometimes less important than whether there is direction at all; we all need to be led from time-to-time, and if we do this collectively, then it becomes easier to stay the course. Sometimes our decision-making is right. Sometimes it isn’t. But the fact that we have made decisions is sometimes all that matters.

Recognize lapses in judgment

We all slip up. Some of us, myself included, slip up regularly. And during a worldwide crisis, our patience, willpower, decision-making, and community focus will wax and wane. While we have to expect the best from ourselves and others, we have to recognize that we can’t always be at our best. By understanding that our abilities to be at the top of our game shift, we also help to hold everyone to balanced standards. That recognition is important, as it shows that we know we need to rely on each other if we are going to continue to move forward.

In the best of times, staying the course takes persistence and focus. In the worst of times it takes every ounce of all that we have. It seems clear that we are moving from the worst of times towards what we hope will be the best. And as we do, we must make sure that we are doing whatever we can to stay the course. In that way, our passage from what was, to what we hope can be, will be smoother, safer, and saner for us all.

Fred Ende is the director of curriculum and instructional Services for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Fred currently blogs for SmartBrief Education, and his two books, Professional Development That Sticks, and Forces of Influence, are available from ASCD. Connect with Fred on his website or on Twitter.

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