The Isolation Paradox
When my oldest son was born nearly 10 years ago, I felt completely alone. Isolated. Even the postpartum nurse who was supposed to come over and check in on us changed every time for some reason. There was no consistency in the help and advice I got. In fact, it was often contradicting. I was a first time mom and was not getting the support I needed. Although my mom was invaluable during this time, she could only do so much, and is not a nurse, so I ended up feeling like a failure most of the time… especially during my son’s first 3 weeks of life.
When my second was born two and a half years later, things looked very different. I had a midwife instead of a doctor and she had followed me closely during the pregnancy as well as after Emmett was born. She was available to me and was a consistent person to turn to when I needed help with anything pregnancy, postpartum, or baby related. This is nothing short of extraordinary given the fact that my son was born on Christmas Eve. Had I been under the care of a doctor and postpartum nurses, who knows when I would’ve gotten a home visit during this holiday season, but my midwife? She talked me off the ledge on Christmas day, visited on December 26th, and provided endless support through the next 6 weeks.
Another big difference at this time was technology. I had a smart phone and was able to connect with a group of moms who also had babies in December of 2012. All of a sudden, nursing at 3 a.m. was more manageable because I could check in with them and ask questions while answering others. Even though I was physically alone sitting in the dark nursery feeding a newborn, I wasn’t alone. I was never alone. I always had this great community of mamas who helped and supported me through the next year (and then some) at my fingertips.
This very much applied to education, too. I’ve been a connected educator for many years now and have benefited first hand from the support, encouragement, and inspiration that educators around the world provide daily. Last week, in one of the educator groups that was formed due to Covid-19 on social media, I saw a post that stopped me in my tracks. It read:
It’s funny as a classroom teacher I’ve always felt somewhat isolated in my little classroom. But now that we are all self isolating, I’ve never felt so supported and apart of an amazing collective of colleagues all coming together to take care of each other and our students. It’s made ma fall in love with this profession all over again. Thank you !
Talk about powerful.
There has been a lot of talk recently about how this pandemic could potentially change education for the better… for teachers to realize what is essential. For everyone to see that teaching to the test isn’t best practice. For educators to understand that work sheets and memorization doesn’t lead to deep and meaningful learning. For some who have been stuck in their ways for too long to see that there is another way, a better way.
The message above brought me so much joy because I know how powerful it has been for me to be connected over the last few years, and I’m glad that people are finding this out, too, even if it took a pandemic to make it happen. Teachers are givers, sharers, helpers… and finding your tribe of educators who will support you through thick and thin, through this pandemic and beyond, and to help you take risks and try new things in order to do what is best for students, is a HUGE positive from these devastating and challenging circumstances.
What I mean by this quote, is that teachers have access to other teachers in a way that I did not have even when I first started teaching in 1999. In less than 20 years, so much has changed, and the opportunities as a first-year teacher and a 50th-year teacher are mind blowing. It would be crazy to not take advantage of learning from the wisdom and experience of others in the same profession. Find your “bat signal” and use it to learn from others.
If we can all come out of this pandemic as connected educators, educators who encourage, support, push, and inspire one another, the world will be a better place and there’s no telling what amount of positive change will come from it. As Sylvia Duckworth says, the connected educator “understands that in a global community, everyone benefits!”
Use your bat signal. Find your tribe. You, and your students, will be thankful you did.
We are in this together.